More ALS DNA Tests Now Available

A new test panel that can detect “up to 35 percent” of the genetic flaws that can cause familial (inherited) ALS has been announced by Athena Diagnostics of Worcester, Mass.

Athena is a commercial laboratory specializing in DNA testing for neurological disorders.

Familial ALS accounts for some 10 percent of all ALS cases. (ALS cases that arise without a known family history are called “sporadic.”) The new DNA-based test panel analyzes blood cells for ALS-causing mutations in four recently identified ALS-causing genes, in addition to the previously available test for mutations in the SOD1 gene. Athena estimates the test panel detects up to 35 percent of genetic flaws associated with familial ALS.

The four new tests are for mutations in the FUS gene, TDP43 gene (also known as the TARDBP gene), angiogenin gene and FIG4 gene. Each test, except the FIG4 test, also can be performed individually.

A blood sample, which can be drawn locally and shipped to Athena, is required. For details, contact Athena at (800) 394-4493 or through the company's Web site.

For more on available genetic testing for ALS and other diseases, see Gene Tests, a Web site funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Genetic test costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, but some insurance policies cover a portion of the cost.

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