How And Why An App Is Being Used To Collect Genetic Data In Africa

Written by Staff


(Photo: Flickr)

Genetic technologies are poised to change the world. Want to eradicate a human disease such as cystic fibrosis or improve a person’s ability to run impossible distances or lift unimaginable weights? This may be possible in the future by using something called CRISPR to edit an organism’s genetic makeup. How about rapidly sequencing a newborn’s genome, similar to an early scene in the 1997 movie Gattaca? Next-generation sequencing may make this fiction a reality.

As these technologies continue to increase in ability and decrease in cost, we may soon be living in an age of genomics-informed health care.

Unfortunately, the “we” in the previous sentence only applies to at best 7 percent of the world’s population. For everyone else technologies such as next-generation sequencing and CRISPR gene editing are more science fiction than nonfiction.

Low or middle-income countries are where this technology is needed the most as they harbor the largest burden of birth defects and genetic diseases. Yet almost all low-income countries and many middle-income countries lack the necessary personnel, technology, infrastructure, and public and medical education capabilities needed to introduce medical genetics services.

From U.S. News & World Report. Story by Shane C Quinonez.

To address this gap, my colleagues and I created the MiGene Family History App. It’s an Android-based mobile application that aims to introduce medical genetics services into low and middle-income countries.

The app is used by health care providers and collects and stores patient and family histories. It generates personalized genetic counseling information that can be delivered to patients and their families. And the data can also be used for epidemiological analysis.

The app has already been piloted in an Ethiopian hospital and has since been rolled out to a teaching hospital in Ghana.

It’s important to point out that the technology the app uses is far from what’s required to perform genome sequencing or gene editing in Ethiopia. But our work is one of the many preliminary steps needed to bring attention to the need for genetic services in low and middle-income countries.

Read more at U.S. News & World Report..