Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gene Testing: The Future of Clinical Diagnosis

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According to comedian, Arnel Ignacio, her friend Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez used to have this fear about getting cancer. Whenever she would hear about someone else’s cancer story, “I felt like this”, “It felt like that”, it would affect her extremely. She would start thinking about it and would start feeling the same symptoms. Fortunately, she has overcome the fear.  

The possibility of developing diseases haunts many people especially if they know about occurrences of those diseases within their family line. Recently, a medical procedure, which they call “gene testing”, shows the possibility of detecting diseases like cancer, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease before they could even develop. The procedure tests a person’s DNA for possible genetic abnormality, which may develop into a disease later in his life.

With modern medicine, diseases like cancer are already curable if it has been detected in the early stages. We all have heard this, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. If prevention is that important, medical practitioners say that early detection is crucial to disease prevention.

However, most of the time, patients don’t feel the symptoms until the latter stages when cure is medically improbable. This is where gene testing can help.

The most common type of gene testing is the “newborn screening”. Experts test newborn infants’ blood samples for possible genetic anomalies, which causes diseases like mental retardation.

Even adults can benefit from gene testing. Through it, a person can determine if he’s a carrier of a particular genetic abnormality, which he can pass on to his children, if he has a predisposition to develop a particular disease and his inherent genetic reaction to particular medicines.

Modern medicine may offer intervention to reduce the risk or reverse the condition through gene therapy (the deactivation of the defective gene) or by replacing it.

In the US, gene testing kits are available over the counter, which cost from $20 to $50. However, the result is not automatic like a pregnancy test kit. The user must send the saliva sample to a research lab for evaluation. The user can get the result via internet through packages ranging from $79 - $179.

Gene testing is now available in the Philippines for P60,000. The saliva sample will be evaluated in a laboratory in Shanghai, China.

Gene testing may be costly but it’s a scientific breakthrough that could help people fight disease in the future.

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