DNA was first discovered in 1869 by the Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher but it was not until 1944 that Oswald Avery found DNA was responsible for causing genetic changes in bacteria. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick announced that they found the secret of life. Crick and Watson used an X-ray diffraction device to photograph DNA taken by Rosalind Franklin.
Together, they determined that DNA has a double-helix polymer structure. The two strands coil around each and are held together by bonds between the 23 base pairs of adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. The breakthrough meant humanity now understands how genetic information is handed down from generation to generation through DNA.
Further advances followed the work of the Human Genome Project that genetic disorders from the parents could be passed down to the child by the incorrect copying of the DNA code and that finding these ‘errors’ could assist in determining your likelihood of developing certain conditions. This has led to the development of DNA testing.
Prenatal Screening Tests
During the first trimester of pregnancy a simple blood test measures levels of PAPP-A (pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A) and HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone being produced in a woman’s body.
The test screens for certain chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome, Edward’s syndrome, Patau Syndrome, and others.
Abnormal levels of PAPP-A and HCG usually suggest something is unusual with the fetus.
Further testing is required, and the doctor may require a sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. The results of this test can aid a woman’s choice in the next steps to be taken.
Targeted Medical Treatment
In the past, you were given medicine and it either worked or it didn’t. You could suffer from painful side effects. One of the fastest-growing areas in medicine is developing drugs that target and attack cancer cells through precision medicine.
Methylation is a process that changes genes through environmental and lifestyle factors and heightens or lowers the possibility of developing carcinogenesis.
Cancer cells change DNA making them different from normal cells. This causes them to behave differently, by growing faster than normal cells and then sometimes spreading to other parts of the body. New cancer drugs ‘target’ these differences and as gene therapies develop, the treatments can be created specifically for the patient.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins that suppress tumors. Damaged DNA is repaired by these proteins.
If these genes are mutated or modified be able to help repair any becoming damaged DNA. Making the cells’ genetic material less stable and more likely to be cancerous.
Women with certain inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene have a greater risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Several different DNA tests are available that look for a specific harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
Everybody has different DNA. It’s what makes us unique. DNA profiling is a forensic technique in criminal investigations. Comparing DNA recovered from a crime scene provides evidence against suspects.
DNA tests determine paternity in family court proceedings. It can also settle inheritance disputes and adoption cases.
Do I need a DNA Test?
Commercial DNA tests vary in quality as do the laboratories and it is important to consider who you are buying a DNA test from and the organization that evaluates your results. Of course, medically ordered tests managed by a gene therapist are a different animal than the commercial DNA tests available online.
Consult DNA Weekly which is an objective resource that helps test seekers find the right screening for their purposes and other resources to help you in learning about your health and well-being through a view of your DNA.