February 02, 2010
Counsyl Genetic Tests For Prospective Parents

Check for whether you carry 100 potentially dangerous genes for prospective parents.

Counsyl, a Stanford startup based in Redwood City, CA, has developed a genetic test for prospective parents that determines their risk for passing more than 100 different genetic diseases on to their child. The test, which costs $349 and is already covered by some major insurers, could rapidly expand preconception screening for rare inherited conditions.

Here is a map of 100 medical centers offering this test.

You can bet that the list of testable genetic diseases will grow each year and the general usefulness of pre-pregnancy genetic screening will grow along with the list of testable genes.

The big recent cost declines for genetic testing and genetic sequencing don't just make a test such as this cheaper. Lower costs also enable scientists to engage in much larger scale searches for biologically significant genetic variants. As a result the number of known ways that genetic variants cause human differences is going to grow by orders of magnitude in the next 10 years.

Most (all?) of these genetic variants mentioned above only cause disease if inherited from both parents. Test results for a couple can influence their decision on whether to start a pregnancy naturally or via IVF with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or whether to avoid reproduction entirely. If you are thinking about making a baby then $349 to assess your genetic risks seems like a small price to pay as compared to the total costs (which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars) to raise a child to adulthood.

Looking down the line 10 or 20 years I expect to see online dating services match people up based on avoidance of shared harmful recessive genes. Searchers for Mr. and Mrs. Right will get steered toward prospective mates with whom they can pretty safely make babies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 February 02 06:41 PM  Biotech Reproduction

anonyq said at February 3, 2010 7:37 AM:

Because the data filled in at online dating services is really trustworthy.

Bob Badour said at February 3, 2010 10:13 AM:


There would be no filling in. Just a quick swab when joining.

And there would be no benefit from lying. Would you really want to lie so you can hook up with the one woman who will give you fucked up children requiring all sorts of expensive supports? I think not.

anonyq said at February 3, 2010 2:08 PM:

Which makes joining a >>$100 affair while most are semi free now. There is also the question if you want this information to be known for the very small advantage. (how large is the change that that woman caries the same 1 in a million recessive gene.)

Xenophon Hendrix said at February 3, 2010 3:46 PM:

It goes way up if you check for enough recessives, and almost everyone has some bad recessives.

My (admittedly unreliable) crystal ball tells me that pre-implantation genetic screening is going to become the usual way for the wealthy to produce children.

Bob Badour said at February 3, 2010 3:59 PM:


I don't know where you get your figure for membership fees. 1) Testing will become ever cheaper in years to come. 2) My research suggests Match.com charges $30/month and eharmony charges twice that.

anonyq said at February 4, 2010 4:43 PM:

It is not the testing itself but the collection that is expensive. Especially if you want to make it semi trustworthy. Match is 9,95/Month with a 6 Month membership period.

Seerak said at February 4, 2010 6:37 PM:

Looking down the line 10 or 20 years I expect to see online dating services match people up based on avoidance of shared harmful recessive genes.

Looking down the line 10 or 20 years, I see a huge political fight as the Left tries to stop life and health insurance companies (assuming there are any remaining by then) from using/requiring such tests to set your premiums. Of course, the entire point of insurance is to protect against unknown risks, not certainties (that's why we don't have food insurance), but that key part of the concept "insurance" has been pretty well lost these days.

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