Special Correspondent

Clinical genetics unit and lab inaugurated in CMCH

60% of people suffer from one or the other complex disorders

“Medical research is still far away”

VELLORE: Genetics is involved in several diseases except trauma, and clinical genetics is, therefore, vital in the prevention of serious physical and mental disorders, according to I.C. Verma, Senior Consultant and Chairman, Department of Genetic Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Talking to newspersons after inaugurating the Clinical Genetics unit and laboratory in the Christian Medical College Hospital here on Wednesday, Dr. Verma said that 5 per cent of all new-borns would get genetic diseases up to the age of 20.

Sixty per cent of people suffer from one or the other complex disorders such as hypertension, epilepsy, diabetes, schizophrenia, which had a genetic component, and were partly caused by improper food habits and other environmental reasons. ‘Phenyl Ketunuria’ was a genetic disease, which led to mental retardation in children.

If detected and treated early, it would be possible to prevent mental retardation among children. Slowness in all activities and inability to recognise the parents were some of the early symptoms for this disease.

Dr. Verma said that Duchene muscular dystrophy occurred in male children, and whose symptoms were difficulties in walking and climbing up stairs. A particular gene in the ‘X’ chromosome caused the disorder. One in 5,000 male children was affected by this disorder, while girl children were not affected.

Early genetic treatment could cure the disease or prevent the child from getting serious disorders later, he noted.

The genetic specialist said that studies revealed that many of those, who had genetic diseases, had been born to consanguineous parents (who are blood relatives). Separate studies made in Vellore and Bangalore showed that many of the mentally retarded children were born to consanguineous parents, he said. The reason why consanguineous marriages resulted in children being born with serious disorders was the fact that both copies of some genes present in the child were abnormal. Each human body has 35,000 pairs of genes, one in each pair being derived from father and other from mother.

The child would not develop a disorder, if the one of the genes was normal. Replying to a question, Dr. Verma said that medical research was still far away from the possibility of preventing mental and physical disorders in children through pre-natal genetic manipulations, or curing diseases through genetic manipulations since the gene mapping had been a costly affair.

Sumita Danda, head of the Clinical Genetics unit, said that with the development of a separate laboratory, the unit would work with other departments, see cases, test children for symptoms of genetic disorders, counsel parents, and try to prevent the children from getting disorders as they grew old.