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Genes are no crystal ball for disease risk

Deciphering a person’s genetic instruction book doesn’t predict medical future

By
1:24pm, April 3, 2012

CHICAGO — The human genetic instruction book is as lousy at predicting disease as an almanac is at predicting the weather, a prominent cancer researcher concludes from an analysis of the genetic data from thousands of pairs of identical twins.

A technological revolution has made deciphering genetic instruction books, called genomes, quicker and cheaper than ever before. Many scientists have touted the genome as a crystal ball for peering into people’s medical futures. But Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wondered just how informative knowing a person’s genetic makeup could be.

So Vogelstein and his colleagues gathered medical data from 53,666 twin pairs from around the world. Identical twins share their genetic makeup, so looking at one twin’s health history may reveal what medical complications the other twin's genome has in store. The researchers did not decipher any of the twins' genomes but u

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