If you watch any TV at all, you probably are familiar with the huge role DNA plays in helping the good guys catch the bad ones. Since its first use as a forensics tool in the mid 1980’s, the science of DNA testing – or genetic testing – has evolved into a tool with immense potential in other fields, especially medicine.
Today, more than 1,100 clinical genetic tests are currently in use and the results can help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder, as well as confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition.
Genetic testing can be used to determine a child’s parentage, a person’s ancestry or the biological relationship between people. More importantly, genetic testing looks for the possible presence of genetic diseases or mutant forms of genes associated with an increased risk of developing genetic disorders.
Genes and what they do
Genes are like a set of instructions that control growth and how our bodies work. They are also responsible for many of our characteristics such as eye color, blood type, or height. We each inherit two copies of most genes, one copy from our mother, and one copy from our father, explaining why, for instance, we are tall like dad and blue-eyed like mom.
Our bodies are made up of millions of cells and most of them contain a complete set of genes which are located on tiny thread-like structures called chromosomes. Normally, we have 46 chromosomes in most cells (a set of 23 chromosomes from our mother and a set of 23 chromosomes from our father).
Our cells don’t need instructions all the time since different cells do different jobs in the body. So sometimes genes are normally turned on and sometimes they’re normally turned off. Which genes are turned on or off can be influenced by diet, chemical exposure, exercise, aging and messages from other genes in the body.
Sometimes there is a change (mutation) in one copy of a gene or chromosome which stops it from working properly. This mutation can cause a genetic condition because the gene is not communicating the correct instructions to the body.
Such mutations have been linked to a long list of conditions and diseases, including, but by no means limited to:
- Breast, ovarian and prostate cancer
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Mental retardation, learning disabilities, autism
- Liver disease
- Infertility, impotence
- Lactose intolerance
- Muscular dystrophy
- Sickle cell anemia
- Tay-Sachs disease
Why do genetic testing?
There are a number of reasons a person might have genetic testing done. Some of these reasons are:
- Particular types of cancer have occurred in several close relatives
- You want to know if you are at high risk of developing a genetic condition that runs in your family
- Your physician suspects a genetic disorder and wants to confirm it
- You or your partner have had a miscarriage or still birth
- Your child has learning difficulties or developmental delay and you or your doctor wants to confirm or rule out a genetic source
- Your ethnic background puts you at high risk of having a child with a particular genetic disorder. For example, there’s a higher incidence of cystic fibrosis in people of Western European descent.
- You want to be prepared. If a genetic test indicates that you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer (for instance) later in life, you may want to have more regular check-ups to minimize the risk. Knowing your risk of developing any kind of genetic disorder puts you in charge of lifestyle changes that could mitigate that risk. Genetic testing gives you knowledge … and knowledge is power.
Genetic Testing at LivingYoung Center
Our Genetic Test is incredibly simple to take. It involves a procedure called a buccal smear which uses a cotton swab to collect a sample of cells from the inside surface of the cheek. When the written lab results return, our physician will review them with you for your full understanding