Lab test may identify dangerous gene mutations, study finds

FILE - This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of hum

FILE - This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of hum

NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists say they've found a new way to help determine whether specific genetic abnormalities are likely to make people sick. That's a step toward avoiding a vexing uncertainty that can surround DNA test results.

Sometimes a test reveals an abnormality in the DNA code of a gene linked to a disease, but nobody knows if that particular quirk will cause harm. The new study suggests a way to find out.

Researchers made thousands of tiny alterations in a gene linked to breast cancer called BRCA1. Then they tested each one to see if it affects the gene's performance. That let them predict whether each alteration would promote disease if it appeared in a person.

The scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature that their predictions were largely accurate.