Genetic Testing Data

Genetic research and testing have become scientific buzzwords in recent years. More and more people are opting to have genetic testing done to learn more about their ancestors, their inherited characteristics and their predispositions to genetic disease. With a small sample of blood, skin or saliva, laboratories can examine your DNA and inform you of any genetic mutations that could cause diseases. The decision to undergo genetic testing is not a decision that should be made lightly. However, it is recommended for those who have genetic disorders that run in their family, and those who belong to certain ethnic groups, as some disorders are more common in specific races.

Scientists have been examining the genetic makeup of human beings for many years now. The United States government completed the Human Genome Project in 2003, which identified approximately 25,000 specific genes in the human body. This project was a great success, but research is continuing in order to identify indicators of various disorders so that individuals at risk can make life changes to avoid these conditions.

Areas of Focus in Genetic Research

There are a multitude of areas of ongoing genetic research, and one such area is that of mental health. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health are conducting a study to prove that one can have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, a disease that causes distortions in ones sense of reality.

Another area of research is how genetics affect the development of twins. By definition, identical twins are born with the same DNA, but this DNA doesn’t necessarily make them identical in terms of their appearance. Scientists have discovered many facts about twins through genetic research. For example, although twins share the same DNA, their fingerprints are not the same. Also, after studying brain waves of twins, experts have found that their brain waves are almost exactly the same, causing researchers to believe that there is an unspoken “bond” between twins.

Yet another area of research frequented by genetic studies is heart (cardiovascular) disease. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There are many factors that can affect chances of contracting heart disease, including:

  • age
  • family history
  • gender
  • race.

However, researchers have also discovered certain genes that naturally predispose a person to cardiovascular disease. This information can be put to use, and this person can make lifestyle changes to keep their heart as healthy as possible.

Recent Findings in Genetic Research

As genetic research is ongoing, there are new advances surfacing all the time. For example, in January of 2009, researchers with the U.S. Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits consortium discovered a genetic link between the brain and obesity. It is no question that obesity is a problem that afflicts a high percentage of the U.S. population. The genetic findings that resulted from this study could aid in the development of a drug that would aid in the treatment and elimination of obesity in patients.

Another study completed at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found a gene linked directly to dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable muscular spasms. Although there is no known cure for dystonia, this genetic development will allow researchers to be more familiar with the biological mechanisms of the disorder.

Yet another study located a gene that controls the production of tooth enamel. Trials were performed with mice in laboratories, but with some hard work, this finding could carry over to be effective in human beings. This is a very exciting discovery, as you wouldn’t think that a single gene would control such specific and minute tasks as producing enamel to promote dental health.

The Future of Genetic Research

Advances in genetic research have lead to invaluable discoveries about how the human body works. This information is then used in order to discover possible treatments and preventions. With more information regarding disorders and conditions that we are predisposed to, we are armed with the information necessary to make lifestyle changes that may lead us away from these afflictions. Some scientists estimate that genetic testing will soon be an integral part of a typical visit to the doctor. The world of genetic research is a wide open field, and it is expanding each day.

Resources

American Heart Association. (2009). Statistical fact sheets. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the American Heart Association Web site: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2007.

Elliott, V. (2009). Genetic discoveries link obesity to the brain. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the American Medical News Web site: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/01/05/hlsf0106.htm.

Family Doctor. (2005). Genetic testing: What you should know. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the Family Doctor Web site: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/prevention/462.printerview.html.

Human Genome Project. (2008). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the Human Genome Project Web site: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/faq/faqs1.shtml.

Medical News Today. (2009). Genetic research leads to new discovery in understanding rare neurological disorder. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/137540.php.

Readers Digest. (2009). Genetic heart disease factors. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the Readers Digest Web site: http://www.rd.com/living-healthy/genetic-heart-disease-factors/article16038.html.

Science Daily (2009). Genetic discovery could lead to advances in dental treatment. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the Science Daily Web site: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221345.htm.