Clues to Your Health Are Hidden at 6.6 Million Spots in Your DNA

With a sophisticated new algorithm, scientists have found a way to forecast an individual’s risks for five deadly diseases.

A set of human chromosomes. Researchers have developed a tool that surveys alterations in DNA and millions of points in the genome.CreditPhilippe Plailly/Science Source
Gina Kolata

Scientists have created a powerful new tool to calculate a person’s inherited risks for heart disease, breast cancer and three other serious conditions.

By surveying changes in DNA at 6.6 million places in the human genome, investigators at the Broad Institute and Harvard University were able to identify many more people at risk than do the usual genetic tests, which take into account very few genes.

Of 100 heart attack patients, for example, the standard methods will identify two who have a single genetic mutation that place them at increased risk. But the new tool will find 20 of them, the scientists reported on Monday in the journal Nature Genetics.

The researchers are now building a website that will allow anyone to upload genetic data from a company like 23andMe or Users will receive risk scores for heart disease, breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammatory bowel disease and atrial fibrillation.