What Is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is a procedure in which a DNA sample is analyzed to determine any number of potential characteristics. All that is needed to complete the test is a donor sample such as blood, saliva or urine. When the sample is analyzed, the test can determine particular information about the chromosomes that make up the gene. Each person has 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. One set comes from the father and the other from the mother. These chromosomes determine gender, appearance and every other inherited trait.
The most familiar genetic testing procedure is the paternity test. According to WebMD, this falls under a category of testing called DNA fingerprinting. It can be used by law enforcement to solve crimes or by the government to identify fallen military personnel. But it is most often used by the average person as a paternity test. As its name implies, this is a test that determines the father (paternal parent) of a child. As stated in the earlier paragraph, because half of each person’s genetic makeup comes from the father, this test is practically foolproof in determining the second parent. As with other genetic testing, all that is needed is a tissue sample from the donor.
Prediction of Future Disease
Many diseases and other physical disorders are not obvious at birth. Often, problems such as some as types of cancer or retinitis pigmentosa do not show up until much later in life. According to WebMD, in cases where a family has a history of a certain genetic disorder, it can be helpful to know if these traits were passed down to a successive generation. For example, if someone knows that she has an increased risk of cancer, then that person make certain lifestyle changes to inhibit the onset of future maladies.
Potential Reaction to Pharmaceutical Drugs
The use of testing to determine if a patient has an increased risk of dangerous side effects to a drug due to genetic abnormality is called pharmacogenomics. Currently, all drug companies are required to make everyone aware of potential side effects. But in many cases, some people are actually more (or less) likely to experience these problems than others. For example, according to WebMD Health News, there is a potential variation in a gene called P-450 2D6 that impacts that rate of metabolism of up to 25% of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs on the market. All that is required to perform this test is a saliva sample.
“Genetics: Identification” WebMD
“Genetics: Late Onset Diseases” WebMD
“At-Home Test Could Help Protect Against Drug Side Effects” WebMD