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Belgium to investigate Whole Genome Sequencing

21:08 21/02/2018

From Flanders Today: At the request of federal health minister Maggie De Block, the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE) is investigating how and under what circumstances Whole Genome Sequencing – or DNA analysis – can and should be used by medical professionals.

The international Human Genome Project completed in the year 2000, with the ability to map all the genes in the human body. All genes together are known as the human genome and are encoded as DNA.

There are now medical devices that carry out Whole Genome Sequencing, making it possible to receive data on a person’s entire genome structure – consisting of some 20,500 genes. This has life-altering implications in diagnosing and treating diseases, as well as preventing potential disorders. Patients would also have access to their genome data.

According to KCE, this level of genome testing costs between €1,400 and €4,400, depending on how complete the data is. “A few genetics expertise centres are considering buying such a machine,” Frank Hulstaert of KCE told De Standaard.

The devices are quite expensive, so it’s also anticipated that doctors will use outside firms to analyse the data for them. “It won’t be long now before doctors outsource complete genome analyses to foreign concerns,” said Hulstaert. “An analysis such as this can help identify serious developmental disorders in children that standard tests have not been able to determine.”

De Block has now asked the agency to investigate how and when such sensitive data could and should be used, both to advance health care in Belgium and to determine the effect on privacy.

Written by Flanders Today