Printed on: October 04, 2012

Two-day test can spot gene diseases in newborns


WASHINGTON -- A new, rapid way to decode the DNA of sick newborns could help doctors diagnose genetic diseases faster in their tiniest patients -- in roughly two days instead of weeks.

Gene mapping currently takes so long, and is so expensive, that it's not part of routine medical care. But researchers at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., say a speedier method could shorten the anguished wait for a diagnosis for some newborns in intensive care.

They combined a faster gene-analyzing machine with a computer program that uses a baby's symptoms to zero in on the most likely culprit. On Wednesday, they reported using the faster test to help diagnose a handful of babies and plan to begin more routine gene mapping of sick newborns by year's end.