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Study to help babies with genetic diseases

WASHINGTON -- Too often, newborns die of genetic diseases before doctors know what's to blame. Now a way has been found to decode those babies' DNA in just days, instead of weeks, moving gene-mapping closer to routine medical care.

The idea: Combine faster gene-analyzing machinery with new computer software that, at the push of a few buttons, uses a baby's symptoms to zero in on the most suspicious mutations. The hope would be to start treatment earlier, or avoid futile care for lethal illnesses.

Yesterday's study is a tentative first step: Researchers at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., mapped the DNA of just five children, and the study wasn't done in time to help most of them.

But the hospital finds the results promising enough to plan by year's end to begin routine gene-mapping in its neonatal intensive care unit and may help test babies elsewhere, too, said Dr. Stephen Kingsmore, of the hospital's pediatric genome center.

The journal Science Translational Medicine published the study. -- AP

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