One part of our story that some people don’t know is that Dave and I both got genetic testing done prior to having kids. Not because we knew of any issues in either of our family; simply because my doctor was offering it and we figured why not? Better safe than sorry. 100+ rare diseases were on that test, including MLD. So you can imagine our surprise upon the girls’ diagnosis because MLD had come back as NEGATIVE for both of us!
How could this happen, you ask? You bet we inquired after looking back at those tests.
After sharing this information with our daughters’ neurologist – Dr. Vinodh Narayanan, founder of Arizona Pediatric Neurology & Neurogenetics Association – he helped us look into the reasoning:
Apparently, the company who ran the tests, called Counsyl, only tested for the 5 most prevalent gene mutations that resulted in MLD. Of course, the mutations we both have are more rare.
The chances of us meeting and having kids with MLD? Literally 1 in a million.
While there was nothing we could have done differently to change this outcome, Dr. Narayanan was inspired by our family’s story and wanted to do something to help others avoid this occurrence.
Within the year, he had written a proposal based on our family which is aimed at determining the use of Whole Genome Sequencing as a tool for pre-conception genetic testing in couples. With the idea being that preventing recessive diseases (like SMA, or MLD) would be better for families and society, rather than diagnosing after birth (either by newborn screening or after symptoms appear) and even gene therapy (which can have a price tag in the millions).
Not long thereafter, his projected was given the green light by the Flinn Foundation.
- Develop an “analytical tool kit” with which to analyze WGS data from couples – to identify risk alleles (variants) that could potentially cause autosomal recessive or X-linked recessive disease.
- Figure out what are ethical and moral issues that have to be tackled
- Develop a program for counseling couples based on such WGS data.
I was tearing up when Dr. Narayanan told me during a recent visit that “I am confident that within the next couple of years, WGS (whole genome sequencing) and appropriate analytical tools will be available to couples who are planning their own families.”
To know that soon any couple within the US will be able to get a comprehensive genetic test that fully explores all potential gene mutations that cause diseases like MLD is absolutely amazing.
No child should have to suffer from a disease like this and no parent should ever have to lose a child from it. While I know there is some research happening for a cure for those who are symptomatic, it is such a relief to know that we will soon be able to prevent a disease like this entirely.
We are forever grateful to Dr. Narayanan and his dedication to families like ours. Truly one of our guardian angels on earth! ❤