Whole genome sequencing increases diagnosis of rare disorders by nearly a third, study finds


05-11-2021
  Gloved hand holding two blood samples  Credit: Belova59 via Pixabay

Whole genome sequencing from a single blood test picks up 31% more cases of rare genetic disorders than standard tests, shortening the ‘diagnostic odyssey’ that affected families experience, and providing huge opportunities for future research.

Mitochondrial disorders affect around 1 in 4,300 people and cause progressive, incurable diseases. They are amongst the most common inherited diseases but are difficult for clinicians to diagnose, not least because they can affect many different organs and resemble many other conditions.

Current genetic testing regimes fail to diagnose around 40% of patients, with major implications for patients, their families and the health services they use.

A new study, published in the BMJ, offers hope to families with no diagnosis, and endorses plans for the UK to establish a national diagnostic programme based on whole genome sequencing (WGS) to make more diagnoses faster.

While previous studies based on small, highly selected cohorts have suggested that WGS can identify mitochondrial disorders, this is the first to examine its effectiveness in a national healthcare system – the NHS.

The study, led by researchers from the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit and Departments of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Genetics at the University of Cambridge, involved 319 families with suspected mitochondrial disease recruited through the 100,000 Genomes Project which was set up to embed genomic testing in the NHS, discover new disease genes and make genetic diagnosis available for more patients.

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Image: Gloved hand holding two blood samples

Credit: Belova59 via Pixabay

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)