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Mayo Clinic, Helix Partner on Genomic Analysis

DNA analysis graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

2 Oct. 2018. Mayo Clinic and the company Helix Opco are providing a genomic analysis service for Mayo Clinic patients seeking more detailed insights into their genetic make-up and health outlook. Helix is a personal genetics enterprise in San Francisco that often packages its testing and analysis services with those from other companies and organizations.

Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, is offering its GeneGuide program as an analytical and educational service for patients. The clinic’s physicians can order the service, or individual clinic patients can request a GeneGuide kit, after authorization from an affiliated physician. People not currently Mayo Clinic patients can also register for the GeneGuide service, but must first be cleared by a physician to determine if genetic testing is appropriate for those individuals. The test costs $199.00 and is not available to residents of New York, Pennsylvania, or Maryland.

The GeneGuide kit takes a saliva sample from the individual, where it is analyzed in Helix labs. Helix uses its Exome+ assessment methods to analyze GeneGuide samples. This clinical-grade process, says Helix, analyzes customers’ exomes that represent about 2 percent of all 3 billion base pairs in a genome, but still account for about 85 percent of disease-causing genetic variations. In addition, Exome+ adds other areas of interest to individuals and physicians, such as mitochondrial DNA sequences, for analyzing ancestry and predisposition for some diseases.

The analysis yields 4 main types of genetic information returned via the web or mobile device, usually in 6 to 8 weeks. The results indicate if the person’s genome is carrying genes associated with inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease. Another part of the results highlights if the individual is at personal risk of developing disorders, such as age-related macular degeneration or coronary artery disease. A third section of the report indicates if the person may respond adversely to some medications, including the pain and inflammation drug ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) and the stomach acid drug omeprazole (e.g., Prilosec). Yet another section highlights certain health traits, such as development of skin conditions alcohol flush reaction and atopic dermatitis, or eczema.

GeneGuide results also offer insights into a family’s medical history and ethnic factors from a person’s ancestry associated with certain health conditions. The individual’s risk of developing breast cancer is assessed, as well as risks associated with the person’s lifestyle and habits interacting with his or her genomic make-up. In addition, GeneGuide participants can take part in online tutorials on the fundamentals of genetics or more detailed presentations on precision medicine. Mayo Clinic and Helix say a person’s results are not sold to outside commercial enterprises, nor used in research unless authorized by the individual.

Keith Stewart, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, says in a clinic statement, “We need to work toward a future where everyone can benefit from individualized medicine products and services. Mayo Clinic GeneGuide will introduce genomics to a broader audience that Mayo Clinic aspires to engage and educate.”

Mayo Clinic genomics researcher Matthew Ferber who led development of the app tells more about the purposes of GeneGuide in the following video.

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