Why test your DNA?

Reading all the buzz around DNA, you might be asking yourself: Is there any reason to test your DNA?
Even if you’re a healthy individual, there are certain aspects of sequencing your DNA will reveal that will help you to make lifestyle choices for the future.

Health Conditions

DNA can reveal your risk towards certain known Health Conditions based on studies done so far where scientists are confident or suspect the presence of certain gene mutations causing certain conditions.
Armed with this, you can make certain lifestyle choices or take a health test that you were procrastinating on.

Although, there is no simple therapy yet for known mutations and genes, there are some options and these could expand in the future.
Though this indicates a predisposition to a certain condition and although developing that condition depends on factors consisting of your environment, lifestyle, etc., it will help to know this and act accordingly.

Carrier Status

You can know if you might be a carrier for certain diseases and this gives a 50% chance that your children could develop a condition.

So, though these might not affect you, you will pass on these to your children and your spouses genes could determine if your children could develop a certain condition.
If your spouse gets sequenced too, the risk could go up to 100%.

Drug Response

This is called Pharmacogenomics, It basically uses genome information to predict reaction to a particular drug.

It might help to know how you would react to certain drugs which are prescribed to you.
For e.g. if you have a high chance of muscle pain and weakness for statins, you might choose to avoid taking these and discuss other alternatives with your doctor than risk taking them.

This information is being expanded to offer more personalized medicine so that the drugs prescribed to you are effective and lower your risk because what works for me may be harmful to you because our genes are different.

This article shows how this is becoming part of treatment: http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/40040/?p1=MstRcnt

Big Pharmaceutical companies are interested in this too because they want to make more effective medicines and so sell more. I won’t be surprised to see multiple drugs for the same condition and selecting one of them based on some tests.

Performance Capabilities

Certain performance related capabilities can be predicted from your genes.

For e.g. based on this knowledge, you could tell if you can be a sprinter or long-distance runner, and this might help you with some decisions.

Traits

Traits can be predicted by genes for e.g. if you could have curly or straight hair or whether you likely have brown or blue eyes. I don’t think has any medical use as such yet.

Origins

You can also figure out where your maternal line and paternal line came from based on your chromosomes because the migrations of humans based on certain chromosome groups being in certain parts of the earth is known.

Thus, testing DNA now can give you the above information and many companies will keep updating this with new research and studies going on.
For the prices right now for below a $100, it seems quite worth it and tempting but consider the issues below.

Not wanting to know

The downside of testing is that you may not want to know that you are predisposed to certain conditions and knowing this might add to your stress.
Having too much information can be detrimental and it might be a human tendency to attribute some unrelated symptoms with a condition, especially with all the information on the Internet.

Telling your children

If you are a parent, it would be hard to talk to your kids about possibly developing certain conditions, especially as we do not have cures for most of these.
Many have a dilemma about whether they should burden a child with this knowledge or not and if yes, what’s the right time to tell them about it.
It is also hard to live with this, knowing that something grave could happen anytime.

This knowledge could also deter you from having a child in the first place if you learnt about it early on.

Genetic Counselor

Given all the above issues, it makes sense to get some advice and knowing what you’re getting into, and so we have specialized counselors who can guide you.
I would highly recommend talking to one before testing your DNA.

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About Ra

Software Engineer (worked in corporations to healthcare start-ups), Geek, Musician, Artist, Fellow Human - living in the covergence space of healthcare, software, interaction design, the quantified self and genetics, music and spirituality
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