Research ArticleGenomics

Exome Sequencing Can Improve Diagnosis and Alter Patient Management

Science Translational Medicine  13 Jun 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 138, pp. 138ra78
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003544

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A Needle in a Haystack

Exome sequencing enables evaluation of all protein-coding variants in an individual genome and promises to revolutionize the practice of clinical genetics as it moves from the lab into the clinic. Bringing this technology to the clinic affords the opportunity not just to identify new disease-causing mutations but also to clarify disease presentation and diagnosis. There are many challenges to implementing this technology, however, including which patients to select for analysis, how to rank and prioritize the genetic variants, and how to align the data with the clinical record. In new work, Dixon-Salazar et al. studied a cohort of 118 probands with genetic forms of neurodevelopmental disease, all derived from consanguineous unions, using exome sequencing. All patients were previously excluded for genes most likely to cause their disease. The authors analyzed the exome sequences with a standardized bioinformatic pipeline. They found mutations in known disease-causing genes that in about 10% of cases led to a change in the underlying diagnosis. In 19% of cases, they identified mutations in genes not previously linked to disease. In the remaining cases, the genetic causes remained elusive. Thus, exome sequencing may both improve diagnosis and lead to alterations in patient management in some patients with neurodevelopmental disorders. However, analysis of more than one individual will be required to increase the success rate of identifying the causative mutation in most cases.