Ge­netic tests of­fer health alerts

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - NEWS - Aayushi Pratap ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

CON­TIN­UED ON P8

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