The Analysis of Genetic Material to Predict Potential Chronic Diseases

Common chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases, are believed to be caused by the complex interaction of genetics and environmental factors. According to studies, approximately 5% of chronic illnesses are caused by specific gene mutations. But while these studies agree that genes have a role in influencing common chronic illness, other studies argue that genetics has very little to do with these diseases. But there are rare exceptions where genetics clearly play a central and powerful role in some illnesses such as Crohn’s and macular degeneration.

In the past decade, the technology and development of genome research and genetic testing to identify susceptibility genes and weigh the risk of developing chronic illnesses has been a major focus. And for years, scientists have tirelessly studied how the knowledge of genes can be used to predict the risk of developing certain diseases. More than half of these studies mostly focused on how diseases developed in twins (both identical and non-identical twins). Most of these studies concluded that genetics account for 80-90% of common chronic conditions. But for more reliable results, more studies have also been conducted analyzing the entire genome using a broader population sample.

Through genetic testing, a person’s DNA is examined to identify any gene mutations that may cause certain illnesses. The genome research and knowledge on genes should help doctors make better and informed diagnosis, manage, treat, and come up with better preventive measures. But despite recent advancements in genome research, there have been significant limitations in the study and analysis of how gene mutations influence chronic disease.  A major concern for the researcher is the role of environmental and lifestyle factors in increasing the risk. A person may have a minimal genetic risk for a disease, which can be worsened by bad lifestyle habits like smoking, pollution, and lack of physical exercise.

But so far, different studies that have been done regarding the prediction of common diseases based on genetic composition have only shown limited predictive value. However, more advanced studies and gene discovery from the Genome-Wide association are expected to improve the gene-based prediction. But the main concern is whether the improvements will be sufficient enough to influence the approach to how these diseases are managed and treated. The truth is, it may take years before the DNA-based testing can be routinely used in predicting the risk of developing chronic illnesses.

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