The Human Genome Project declared itself complete in April of 2003. It had been 50 years since the first correct double-helix model of DNA structure was proposed. DNA contains the genetic information that allows all modern living things to function, grow and reproduce. The Project identified about 20,500 genes, a number far more than originally thought to exist, and yet fewer than the numbers that had been suggested in the early years of the Project.
If you have followed any of the discoveries from the Human Genome Project, you know there are 2 areas of interest that have leapt out. First is the ability to discover and trace your genetic background, in other words, your ancestry. Embedded in your DNA is where it has traveled and which populations it was part of over time. Your DNA can reveal if ancestors in your parents lineage were from Asia, Europe, Sub Saharan Africa, or many other areas.
The second area of great interest in DNA is for medical purposes. Doctors use genetic tests for several reasons, including:
- Finding out if people carry a gene for a disease and might pass it on to their children
- Testing for genetic diseases in adults before they cause symptoms
- Confirming a diagnosis in a person who has disease symptoms
As recently utilized by Angelina Jolie, genetic testing revealed a rare mutation of the BRCA gene that put her risk of developing breast cancer at nearly 90 percent. She chose to undergo a preemptive medical procedure to halt the possibility.
Not every genetic test result for medical screening is as definitive as the one that Ms. Jolie received. While some of these tests are in their infancy, there are others that have solidly proven results, such as those for carrying Tay-Sachs disease or for contracting Cystic Fibrosis. With a cheek swab or a bit of saliva you could find out information that may help you to live a healthier life.
Most genetic testing is ordered through your medical provider, but now there are online companies that allow you to discover this sensitive information on your own. 23andMe.com (named after the number of chromosomes in human DNA) offers a package that includes over 240 health reports (full list available here). They also connect you with a genetic counselor to help you understand and interpret the reports.
If you are concerned about potential health risks, this is one way to get additional information at a low price of just $99!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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