JScreen to provide genetic testing to WU students

| Contributing Reporter

JScreen, a nonprofit organization associated with Emory University that provides genetic testing for over 100 genetic diseases, is coming to Washington University on Monday, Nov. 16. Between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., JScreen will be set up in room 232 of the Danforth University Center to provide screenings for common genetic disorders at the subsidized rate of $25.

“Twenty-five dollars can change your future, and it’s something that as college students, we don’t necessarily think is so important right now,” sophomore Jacob Belinky, the lead student organizer of the event, said.

Early testing and detection provides options to parents (and potential parents) who want to ensure the health of their children. If both parents are carriers for a genetic disease, their child has a 25 percent chance of being born with that disease. According to the JScreen website, “80 percent of babies with genetic diseases are born to parents with no known history of that disease.”

“It’s just really worth the five minutes and the $25,” Belinky said. “It can change your life and change the lives of your children.”

According to sophomore Paul Felder, co-organizer of this event, genetic testing does not increase abortion rates, which is a common concern. Rather, it provides options that can, in some cases, even reduce abortion rates.

JScreen advocates many options to parents who are carriers of genetic disorders. These options include preimplantation genetic diagnosis, use of a donor sperm or egg, adoption, prenatal diagnosis and preparation and early treatment, according to the JScreen website.

While JScreen primarily tests for genetic disorders that are common amongst Jewish populations, Belinky encourages all Washington University students to get tested regardless of religious ancestry.

“It’s not supposed to be a Jewish issue; it’s really meant to be a service for the entire Wash. U. community,” Belinky said.

Certain diseases are more commonly found within Jewish communities, because many of these communities are very small and insulated, and there is a higher chance of mating with someone who is genetically similar to you, Belinky said.

Genetic testing for predominantly Jewish diseases affects the much of the University’s student body, as over one-third of WU students are Jewish.

“If you don’t have Jewish ancestry, there’s a high chance with going to this university that you can marry someone who is Jewish, so that still increases your chances of having a child that could have one of these genetic diseases, just based on the population of the school,” Felder said.

Freshman Harry Kosowsky plans to get tested with JScreen to prepare for his future and know what risks his children might face.

“I’m getting tested…because it’s so easy, and I’d rather know than not know,” Kosowsky said.

Felder noted the simplicity and convenience of the test.

“It only takes a few minutes and it’s not like they’re drawing blood or anything—they take a swab and collect your DNA, and you get your results in a few weeks,” Felder said. “It’s something you can do now and not have to worry about later in life. You can make sure that your children are healthy and better off and plan for your future in under five minutes.”

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