There are many types of diseases, some of which are caused by infectious microorganism, while others are caused by organs or systems within our bodies that aren’t functioning properly. For example, a cold is an acute infection by a bacteria or virus, whereas asthma is caused by an over-reaction of the immune system to allergens, causing breathing difficulties.
Some of these diseases that involve malfunctioning cells or systems have their origins in our genes, also known as our DNA. Genetic based diseases run in families and often passed down from parent to child. Some examples of this include Haemophilia and Cystic Fibrosis.
In early April 2017, the US Food and Drug agency approved a home testing kit by the company 23andMeb to test for 10 types of genetic-based diseases. The test is fairly easy to do, as members of the public need only to provide a sample of their saliva off to the lab and wait for the results.
23andMe previously built a name for themselves for providing ancestry information directly to consumers who buy their ancestry kits. Just like this new disease predisposition kit, the ancestry service isolated DNA from saliva samples of consumers and tested them for markers of various racial groups.
This genetic disease predisposition kit was actually released for sale in 2014, but the FDA put a halt on sales due to fear that the test may not produce accurate results, especially false positives. The FDA feared that false positives, due to erroneous sample collection may lead to unnecessary worry or stress.
23andMe has since been working very closely with the USFDA to ensure that the kit produces accurate results, especially by providing accurate instructions for users to give saliva samples that are not contaminated. This high standard of sample collection is crucial in order for the results to be correct and not cause misleading impressions.
The approval granted by the USFDA to this kit is a landmark decision as allows people to learn about their predispositions to diseases in a more private setting, without any doctors or medical staff present. The kit is able to detect more than half a million genes related to 10 diseases which include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Late onset Alzheimer’s
- Celiac disease
- Primary dystonia (a movement disease)
- Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency (which leads to lung and liver problems)
- Factor XI deficiency (lack of blood clotting factors)
- Gaucher disease type 1 (a tissue and organ disorder)
- G6PD (a red blood cell disorder)
- Hemochromatosis (a problem with too much iron)
- Hereditary Thrombophilia
The kit is being sold at USD 99 each, which is considered rather affordable, as it tests many genetic predispositions at once. Users have to keep in mind, however, that having a positive result for any of the genes does not mean that the disease is guaranteed to develop.
Having the genes for a certain disease is not the end of the story, as there are many factors that influence whether a disease actually develops full blown in the long run of not. A big factor, of course, is the lifestyle choices you make. This test kit will help many people discover if they need to make changes in their daily lives, to minimize the chances of a disease actually developing if they carry the genes for it.
Anyone who tests positive for a disease gene with this kit is advised to seek the opinions of a doctor or genetic counselor on what they can do to protect themselves from it, or in the very least how to manage it if it does develop.
For now, 23andMe is working towards getting more genetic predisposition tests approved so that many more people can be made aware of what they have inherited in their genes.
Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advice. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.