Genetic analysis is essentially useless in predicting a person's risk of cancer, heart attack or other common diseases, according to a set of commentaries published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The decoding of the human genome in 2003 led to a flood of research into the contributions that genetic variation might make to the risk of various chronic diseases that tend to develop late in life, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Since then, a number of for-profit companies have begun offering genetic screenings and disease risk assessments.
"With only a few exceptions, what the genomics companies are doing right now is recreational genomics," said David B. Goldstein of Duke University, author of one of the commentaries. "The information has little or in many cases no clinical relevance."
While genomewide analysis has successfully identified some differences between the genetic codes of healthy and diseased patients, these differences provide little information about disease risk. Researchers expected to find a small number of common genetic variations that were responsible for each disease. Instead, common gene variants appear to contribute to disease risk only very marginally.
Based on the failure of more than 100 genomewide studies -- carried out on thousands of patients in a number of different countries -- to deliver useful results, Goldstein suggests that the approach should be abandoned as a waste of resources. Genomewide analysis is only effective at uncovering common variations with large effects, Goldstein says. Discovering rare variants with smaller effects is "beyond the grasp of the genomewide association studies."
Steve - I love how they dismiss genetic analysis as ineffective but not offer an alternative. What they should have added in their opinion is the fact that Epigenetics, how lifestyle choices affect our genes, is where the all the research is at. As we predicted, this is where the future of gene control lies.