Genetic Testing Findings

If you know even a little bit about the process, you’ve probably thought (at least briefly) about taking a DNA test. Maybe youre interested in what your DNA can tell you about your heritage, and you want to see if the family tree you’ve sketched is as accurate as you think. Or perhaps you have a family history of a genetic disease, and you want to know if you’re at high risk for becoming ill. Still yet some people use genetic testing out of curiosity; what genetic traits have they inherited? There are countless reasons to take a DNA test, but before you begin the process, its important to understand exactly what a DNA test can tell you and what it can’t.

What You Can (And Can’t) Expect to Learn From Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is used to gather information for a variety of different reasons. While you can learn quite a bit about yourself and others using DNA testing, its also important to understand the limitations of such testing.

Genetic testing can:

  1. Help to determine the identity of someone at the scene of a crime. Due to advances in the field of genetics, DNA forensics has become a revolutionary tool for detectives performing crime scene investigations. By collecting a sample of DNA from a crime scene (which is present in hair, blood, saliva, and semen,) detectives can work to identify who was present at the scene of a crime, and when.
  1. Confirm the identity of your biological father or mother. To determine this, you’ll need DNA samples from your alleged parents as well as your own sample. A test can compare your DNA with that of your supposed parents to see if you are, in fact, related. While this is most often preformed for the purpose of paternity testing, it is possible to confirm the identity of your biological mother, as well. This has become increasingly popular in adoption cases, to prove relationships in immigration cases, and in the rare case that parents suspect that a baby “mix-up” occurred in a hospital at birth. However, it’s important to note that such tests are generally 95 to 99 percent accurate, and it’s necessary to have the DNA of all parties in question to determine relation.
  1. Tell you whether your baby will be born with a chromosomal disorder. This test, called amniocentesis, is performed while a baby is in utero and can predict with 99 percent accuracy whether your baby will be born with Downs syndrome or another chromosomal abnormality.
  1. Determine whether you and/or your partner are genetic disease carriers. Many adults who are thinking about starting a family opt for genetic testing to determine whether they are carriers of a specific genetic disease. This won’t tell you with certainty whether your future children will be born with a disease; however, if both you and your partner are disease carriers, your child will be at increased risk for developing that disease.
  1. Determine whether you have a predisposition to a genetic disease. If your family has a history of a disease with a proven genetic link (such as breast cancer), DNA testing can help you determine your individual risk. While DNA testing can’t rule out or predict the development of genetic disease in your future, it can tell you if you have inherited an increased risk for developing a particular disease. This information can help you care for yourself accordingly and educate yourself about that disease and its early symptoms.
  1. Tell you what your matrilineal/patrilineal heritage is, and where your ancestors came from- as far back as 10,000 years. Genealogy research has become increasingly popular in recent years, as researching family heritage is becoming easier using online resources. DNA testing, however, can tell you more than you could ever learn using electronic census records and word-of-mouth tales from relatives. In fact, researchers have identified ways to trace your ancestral groups back more than 10,000 years and track their migration around the world.

DNA Testing and Fun Facts About You

While DNA testing is often used for medical or legal reasons, some people opt for DNA testing simply because they want to know more about their genetic makeup and how that affects their personality, tendencies, tastes, and character traits. For example, your DNA test results may tell you such facts as your:

  • likely response to certain medications
  • odds of living to 100 years old
  • propensity to addiction
  • sensitivity to certain tastes and odors
  • sensitivity to pain.

What You Want to Know

While DNA testing has its benefits, its easy to understand that you may want to know about your ancestral origins but be wary to learn about your disease risk. Increasingly, reputable companies are offering genetic testing for the purposes you’re interested in; namely, simply testing for genealogy, and not for health reasons. If you do opt to learn more about your disease risk, a genetic counselor can help you interpret the results and respond to them accordingly via lifestyle changes. Advancements in this field make DNA testing easier, more affordable, and more accessible than ever.

Resources

Babycenter staff. (2009). Amniocentisis. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from the Babycenter Web site: http://www.babycenter.com/0_amniocentesis_327.bc.

DNA Diagnostics Center staff. (2009). Maternity test. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from the DNA Diagnostics Center Web site: http://www.dnacenter.com/dna-testing/maternity.html.

Hamilton, A. (2008). Best invention of 2008: The retail DNA test. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from the Time Magazine Web site: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1852747_1854493,00.html.

Medicinenet staff. (2009). DNA forensics. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from the Medicinenet Web site: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=23307.

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