It reads like a page from a science fiction book: using your saliva to gain deeper levels of understanding about your past, your present and your future. But today, this is actually possibly, thanks to a new breed of personal DNA testing, which is easily accessible via the Internet through a variety of companies.
Having your DNA analyzed in this way can actually help to establish paternity, trace your ancestry and determine your predisposition toward certain health conditions and diseases.
Named Best Invention Of 2008
Time Magazine recently named such retail DNA testing as one of the best inventions of 2008. This technique can offer willing participants a unique way to learn more about themselves and their makeup. And while learn more about your heredity is informative and has many valuable applications (such as finding out more about your ancestors and formally determining paternity) many people who try DNA testing are most interested in learning what the future may bring.
Retail DNA testing can use your genetic “clues” to find out if you may be at high risk for various serious illnesses. In some cases, the knowledge can empower you to take steps to help protect your health proactively.
How It Works
The logistics of DNA testing can be relatively complicated, but the basic premise is that your DNA is contained within your genes and is responsible for controlling all of the functions that occur in your body. Until very recently, the option of analyzing your genes and gathering information using this information was limited to people who were at high risk for life threatening conditions in order to help them make educated health decisions. Now, though, almost anyone can have this DNA “read” – provided, of course, that they can afford the expense.
A variety of companies now market directly to consumers, offering to scan your genome, which is all of your DNA, to look for variations that would indicate a predisposition for developing certain diseases, such as diabetes, heart conditions and cancer. These tests generally work by asking participants to provide a DNA sample (often taken by swabbing their cheek or using a special rinse to collect the cells). These cells are then sent in to a laboratory, where they are analyzed to determine the individual’s specific makeup or patterns.
Just keep in mind that in most cases, being predisposed does not mean you will contract the disease – rather, just that the possibility does exist. But it is important to understand that a number of other factors usually come into play, and many people who have a tendency toward a disease never go on to actual contract it. Therefore, how helpful the findings of the tests will be is a subject that is currently up for debate in many public health settings.