What is genetic testing for

Genetic testing allows looking at human DNA and determining genes that affect or predetermine physical body parameters, disease predisposition and severity and other health-related information.

Sports

Such tests are aimed at spotting the body's predisposition to certain athletic abilities such as endurance, speed, and muscle power. Scientists have determined genetic variations that may potentially affect sports results:

  • ACE I/D gene relates to body endurance. ACE D gene is associated with a greater handgrip strength in girls and standing long jump in secondary school students, both male and female, ACE II is responsible for the same parameters, but only in girls.
  • ACTN3 R577X gene is associated with muscle strength. Boys who possessed ACTN3 RR genotype were able to swim faster.

  • Wellness

    Commercial genetic testing organizations offer their services to help people to properly take care of themselves. Tests may even show what types of products you must not eat, and what wine suits you best. The results also help doctors prescribe the most suitable medication.

    Disease

    Genetic tests serve the healthcare industry in one extremely important area - disease diagnosis and related data discovery:

  • what genes affect a diagnosed disease
  • what genes can accelerate the development of a disease
  • the severity of a disease
  • what diseases can be passed on to children via genes
  • Genetic disease diagnosis remains a typical service provided by healthcare organizations whereas genetic testing for athletes or people who are interested in their own wellness have recently become mainstream.

    The Ethical Aspect

    The main issue with genetic testing is its questionable ethical aspect. People who take genetic tests may not be comfortable with the circumstances mentioned below.

    Data Security

    Commercial companies that offer genetic tests may not always keep the acquired information safe and secure. Because of possible data leaks, people may suffer from their test results being disclosed to their family, employer, health insurer and so on. Some people in the sports industry undergo genetic tests to evaluate their athletic performance being forced by an employer. All this might lead to discrimination.

    Discrimination

    People that take genetic tests may, for a reason, fear the possibility of being fired because of particular results received, e.g. athletes who appear to have no genes related to their main physical activity. This problem has led to the creation of GINA - Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in 2008. The law protects USA citizens from being treated unfairly because of genetic test results, and often such unfair treatment comes from insurers and employers. GINA helps people protect their data ensuring that the collected information will not be revealed to anyone.

    Pressure

    One of the services that commercial companies advertise is testing of children. The companies claim that results may help parents decide which sports are best for their children and what activity to choose to decrease the chance of injuries. The Human Genetics Society of Australasia is concerned about the pressure that parents can put on their children. The results may be misunderstood or poorly interpreted by parents, and children may be forced to participate in the "suitable" type of sports, even if they do not enjoy it.

    Importance of Genetic Testing for the Healthcare Industry

    Despite all the drawbacks stated above, genetic testing is still the future of the healthcare service. The results are important for many individuals as they allow receiving a more personalized treatment, understanding different health conditions better, and taking preventive actions. The collected data may also be anonymously used in mass disease research, trend detection, etc. Genetic testing enables the establishment of personalized medicine that considers all the peculiarities of one’s genome, which might result in a more efficient treatment, disease risks detection, and mutation prevention. The IT sphere is contributing a lot to this area of healthcare by developing new solutions and algorithms. Medical software companies and healthcare facilities join their efforts to cheapen testing process, facilitate data analysis, and eliminate a human factor. In the future we will see software that helps to make the whole process of genetic testing more efficient and faster.