Genetic tests offer health alerts
MUMBAI: Genetic fingerprinting has been used to establish a person’s parentage, but now laboratories are using the technique to predict people’s health. Genes are units of DNA, a compound found in each cell of the body, which are passed down through generations. The genes carry a set of instructions needed for living organisms to survive and reproduce.
Genetic tests offered by laboratories look for gene mutations that can predict the likelihood of diseases like breast cancer and hypertension. Genetic counsellors then suggest dietary and lifestyle changes to lower the risks. While some doctors said this could be an excellent disease prevention strategy, others said it could lead to unnecessary worries about the future.
Depending on the number of diseases for which one wants to get tested, package prices range from ` 12,000 to ` 1 lakh. People receive a kit at home and can send samples of their saliva to the laboratory. For instance, Mapmygenome, a Hyderabadbased start- up, provides for Rs30,000 a test report and a list of dietary and lifestyle recommendations suited for the person’s genetic profile. “A simple DNA test can help people take preventive actions before the onset of the disease,” said Anu Acharya, CEO, Mapmygenome.
Vedant Thakkar, 38, decided to take the test after seeing an advertisement on a social networking site. Thakkar found he has an elevated risk for developing diabetes and age- related macular degeneration, a condition that can lead to blurred or complete loss of vision. The results surprised him.
“I live a healthy lifestyle. I exercise every morning, eat healthy food, so I didn’t have a reason to believe I would be at a high risk for any lifestyle diseases,” Thakkar said.
Pooja Lodaya, Thakkar’s genetic counsellor, said his DNA profile showed his risk of developing diabetes was 1.36 times higher than the average population.
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