Researchers at UW-Madison studying genetic screening for Amish

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working to expand newborn genetic screening for Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities in the state.

Researchers hope to pinpoint the unique genetic disorders affecting the Plain sect communities in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. They then plan to create low-cost screening to improve current newborn genetic testing.

Designing the genetic screening will likely take about eight months, researchers said. Pilot studies will then be conducted in rural clinics.

"We want to be able to offer very rapid, low-cost confirmatory testing of genetic disorders," said Dr. Christine Seroogy, a pediatric immunologist and associate professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. "Additionally, it could be cost-saving, in that we are diagnosing the disorders early, which saves the families lots of diagnostic testing."

Seroogy, who is leading the study, has been working with rural clinics over the past six years to improve newborn care in Amish communities.

"The Amish culture in general is not opposed to medical technologies," she said. "They're also extremely pragmatic."

Seroogy said she plans to make house visits when delivering complicated information about genetic disorders.

Seroogy is working with the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and Dr. James DeLine with the Center for Special Children in La Farge.

The project will receive $120,000 over the next three years from the UW-Madison Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

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