January 3, 2023
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Can Diseases Be Traced Through DNA?

Even DNA at-home test kits offer insights into your heritage, ancestry, and what your bloodline endured. But, can diseases be traced through DNA tests?
Tomohiro Takano

Can Diseases Be Traced Through DNA?

After the pandemic hit with the novel coronavirus, many people jumped aboard the ‘get healthy’ train. Whether it be to eat healthier, get more sleep, or simply change the mindset of what healthy is, health and wellness have taken a front seat.

Even DNA at-home test kits offer insights into your heritage, ancestry, and what your bloodline endured. But does this include knowing diseases you may be predisposed to?

Here is everything you need to know:

What is a DNA Test?

DNA tests require a sample from the person. The sample can be provided in the following ways:

·       Urine

·       Semen

·       Spit

·       Hair

·       And more

For the most part, DNA testing requires to spit into a tube or a simple cheek swab. Your unique genetic code will then be examined and revealed.

What Can You Learn from a DNA Test?

There are many benefits to getting a DNA test.

Long-lost relatives

If you are looking for relatives that may still be alive, submitting your at-home DNA test is a great way to find out. Analysts will use DNA matching to determine who you are related to.

Where your ancestors came from

Your unique genetics will inform you of where your ancestors came from. Not only will the DNA results show you your heritage from the starting point and continent, but they can show you where they moved next and when it occurred.

Shared traits

If you want to know what traits you share with your ancestors, you may get lucky with your DNA test. DNA can suggest not only similar physical traits but personality traits as well.

Your true heritage

Many people are under the impression that their specific heritage is concrete. However, with DNA tests, those preexisting notions may be discovered that they are not as correct as you might have thought. You could actually be a whole new heritage or not as much as a specific heritage as you were told. 

Find your parent

If you were adopted, odds are you do not know who you birth parents are. With at-home DNA tests, you may get lucky and discover your biological parents. With DNA matching, the amount of genetic markers that are shared can determine whether or not they may be likely to be your parents.

Can Diseases Be Traced Through DNA?

Although you can find much more information about yourself through DNA, can any sort of diseases be traced through your DNA? The answer: YES! There are many health ailments that can be found in your unique DNA.  They include but are not limited to:

·       Obesity

·       Breast cancer

·       Huntington’s disease

·       Cystic fibrosis

·       Familial adenomatous polyposis

·       And more

Specific mutations in shared DNA can give you an idea whether you are predisposed to a future health complication. This gives you the much-needed opportunity to prepare and take preventative measures for your health. Your DNA and its link to your past ancestors may hold the key to saving your own life.

DNA analysis can reveal a wealth of information about our genetic makeup. But can it be used to trace diseases?

Genetic Predisposition

A DNA test can provide invaluable information about your genetic predisposition to diseases.  For example, the National Cancer Institute reports that genetic screening can reveal more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes.  There are a wide range of potential diseases that DNA screening may identify.  Some of the most common include:

  • Obesity
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Dyslexia
  • Vision Loss
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • And many more…

You can find comprehensive information about genetic diseases at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

What to do if You Have a Genetic Disease

Some genetic markers for disease are much stronger than others. For example, mutations to the BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes greatly increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer.  Most gene markers are more benign.  

While many genes (or gene mutations) detected in one’s DNA may contribute to the development of a disease, no single gene is a guarantee that you will get it. Typically, many genes are involved.  Some individuals may acquire the disease, while some may not.  Environmental factors also typically play a large role. 

Everyone Carries Genetic Diseases

Every individual will have some genetic markers for genetic diseases.  Fortunately, many people who carry these genes will not necessarily acquire the disease during their lifetime.  The same genes may be passed onto offspring, so parents may find a DNA screening helpful to protecting their children’s health.

Genetic screening for disease is a powerful medical tool.  If you know what types of diseases might be more likely based on your DNA, you can take preventative measures, like regular doctor check-ups, other types of diagnostic tests, lifestyle changes, and medication.  

Contagious Diseases

Contagious or infectious diseases, like COVID-19, are borne by outside pathogens.  This means they do not lurk in our DNA.  In some cases, DNA testing may be performed on a sample from the patient to identify the genetic signature of an infectious microbe.

Research on human genetics is helping scientists understand, and plan for, infectious diseases.  DNA has been used to help understand how historical pandemics, like the Black Plague in Europe or smallpox in the Americas, took so many lives.  The recent introduction of mRNA vaccines against Covid are an example of new medical technologies that have been enabled by improved understanding of genetic processes.

A Healthier Future

The use of DNA to screen for diseases is a technology that is rapidly improving as scientists better understand the relationship of genetics and disease.  A DNA screening can help anyone become better aware of how their genetics may make them and their children predisposed to certain diseases.  And if your DNA indicates that you are not predisposed to a given disease, you also stand to gain peace of mind.

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO