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The Usefulness of Genetic Testing Learning About Personal Disease Risk

Biotechnology focusing on genetic research, testing and manipulation shows great promise for the possibility of serious disease prevention, delay and management. Companies like those founded by Jim Plante work to improve the health of humanity, focusing especially on genetic diseases associated with aging. The hope is that people will live longer while maintaining excellent health, avoiding or at least delaying the onset of illnesses like chronic kidney failure and Alzheimer’s disease.

About Genes

Genes are short parts of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Each chromosome in a person’s cells has large numbers of genes, sometimes thousands of them. Abnormalities known as gene mutations or variations are causes or increased risk factors for disease.

Some Types of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is currently used for a broad range of information gathering. Some of the information is mainly for a person’s own interests, such as that of genetic ancestry, and not for diagnostic purposes.

In contrast, newborn screening is required in all 50 states for a small number of conditions that can be treated early on. The testing identifies whether a baby has phenylketonuria, for instance. That condition causes intellectual disability, but this can be prevented by limiting phenylalanine in the diet. This amino acid occurs naturally in high-protein foods.

People have the option of asking their doctors about genetic testing if they know a serious disease runs in their family. A family history of certain types of cancer or Parkinson’s disease, for instance, may prompt some relatives to learn whether they have those genetic markers.

Important Considerations

Every disease occurs at least to some extent because of genetics. This does not mean every disorder is inherited; some are caused by changes to the DNA because of environmental toxins or other issues. However, genetics have a much bigger role in certain illnesses.

People have an identifiable gene variation if they are at increased risk for those illnesses, but usually, that does not verify they will actually ever get the disorder. A noteworthy example is Huntington’s disease, in which the genetic marker confirms this individual will eventually develop the condition unless death by some other cause happens first.