The term genetic testing is something that often leaves the layperson with a bit of a bad taste in his or her mouth, but there really isn’t much weight behind that, aside from the fact that it’s a new technology. In the circles where genetic testing is a regularly discussed subject, however, genetic testing is growing in prominence and popularity and is expected to help confront many current public health issues as the processes continue to be tweaked, and new uses are being discovered.
The aforementioned laypeople, however, aren’t completely wrong, and any new science has reasons to be skeptical about. From simple applications like commercial genetic origin testing to determining risk factors and the probability of diseases for unborn babies, the breadth of uses is very wide, and here are some pros and cons of genetic testing, on the whole.
Genetic testing aims to identify changes in human chromosomes, genes, and proteins. There are quite a few different ways to genetically test, including blood testing and cheek swabs in most people, and amniotic fluid tests for unborn babies still in the womb. It is still (and will likely remain) a voluntary procedure, and it can aim to test molecular genetics, chromosomal genetics, and biochemical genetics, collecting information from short DNA strands, long DNA strands, and changes in DNA, respectively.
There are many uses for genetic testing, and some are more practical than others, but here is a list of some common uses:
- Understanding disorders – the Human Genome Project was conducted in 2003, and successfully determined all genes found on human chromosomes. Doing this allows for studying of chromosomes in individuals who are sick, and determining the differences that cause the illness.
- Diagnosing disorders before birth – similar to the first bullet, genetic testing of amniotic fluid can determine if an unborn child is at risk for genetic disorders.
- Pharmaceuticals – Using testing, doctors and pharmacists can determine if a given patient will react well to a number of drugs that have also been tested against a number of different genetic makeup.
- Treating diseases – for diseases that affect tissue, such as cancer, genetic testing can help drug makers get more granular with the development of drugs and niches those drugs aim to treat.
As with most areas of disease prevention and treatment, genetic testing is not a one-size-fits-all practice. With that, it is certainly a pro that individuals can get insight into their genetic makeup, and can prepare accordingly for any diseases their make up is overly susceptible to. For ailments that are otherwise undiagnosed, genetic testing can take down levels of anxiety by making the breadth of possible ailments much smaller.
For the pessimists, this knowledge of susceptibility can be viewed as dangerous if it becomes public knowledge (think jobs or local office), but another pro is that genetic information is strictly protected, and is also included in anti-discrimination laws’ language.
Because it is still fairly new, genetic testing is very, very costly. In addition, the knowledge learned from genetic testing isn’t always good. For people who get information regarding their health that isn’t particularly good, depression and other mental health issues can be common.
Genetic testing is proven in many fields, but almost all are simple to formulate better solutions for illnesses, and should not be expected to be perfect every time. Time and research are really the only things that can further progress the functionalities of genetic testing, so popularity and available funding will be the keys to the future of this process.