Posted on 20 November 2020
Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, we have seen a huge reduction in the difficulty and cost of extracting and reading an individual’s genetic data. The first sequencing of the human genome cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It is remarkable that having part of your genetic information extracted, or even sequencing the entire genome, is now a service that many people can choose to buy.
Some people get genetic tests for the sole purpose of better understanding their ancestry, but these tests can offer far more valuable information – information that can help you live a longer and healthier life. The fastest and most inexpensive way of extracting this data is with a genotyping test. A genotyping test, rather than reading each individual nucleotide of the genetic code as in DNA sequencing, only looks at nucleotides at certain specific sites, usually by using a DNA microarray. This is enough to report information about certain important genes and which variation of that gene you may have.
Genotyping tests can, for around 100 dollars, tell you if you have genes that may predispose you to certain health conditions, allowing you to make lifestyle changes to help you protect yourself. For example, they can tell you if you have the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene variants that put you at increased risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Genotyping tests can also help you decide whether you should or shouldn’t be taking certain supplements or drugs – for example, if you are predisposed to a certain vitamin deficiency, or if you have a genetic variant that might make a specific medication dangerous.
Full genome sequencing can be much more expensive and takes longer, but unlike genotyping, every nucleotide of the DNA sequence is read. This data can then be uploaded to 3rd party analysis tools to arm you with more detailed information than a genotyping test would yield. Another major advantage of full sequencing is that as the importance of new genetic sites is recognised, you will already have the relevant data without needing to get another test.
If you are serious about using your genetic data to guide your lifestyle choices and to live longer, a full genome sequencing tests is ultimately going to be more valuable. This article provides and excellent overview of some of the best genetic tests currently on the market.
With everything that has been said, it’s also important to consider why you might not want to get a genetic test. A few DNA testing companies require you to opt out of having your genetic data shared with law enforcement or other 3rd parties. Even if a company has robust privacy measures in place, DNA databases can and have been hacked. You also need to consider whether you truly want to know whether you are predisposed to a particular condition. While it may help you take preventative action, possessing this knowledge could also lead to a great deal of anxiety and could ultimately cause more harm than good.