Tapping into the resource of DNA is like having opened Pandora’s box. Unlike Pandora’s box, DNA testing and sequencing has opened doors to understanding genetics better. It even has many profound practical uses in fields such as forensics, ancestry, and prenatal testing.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid, or most commonly known as DNA, is a genetic code or substance that exists in all living organisms on Earth. DNA code contains genetic instructions that are essential for the functioning of any organism that is passed on from one generation to another. The DNA code is embedded inside the nucleus of every living cell inside our human body.
The study of DNA has revolutionized the world; from solving crimes to determining the father of an estranged child and curing hereditary diseases.
Let us now try and understand how the DNA test is performed.
HOW IS A DNA TEST PERFORMED?
DNA Testing or Genetic testing is done by examining a tissue specimen of a human to find the DNA strand inside the tissue cells. The tissue specimen could be gathered from human semen, hair, skin cells, and cheek cells.
The DNA sequence is further analyzed for genetic code and sequence. The interpreted code helps in identifying an individual. DNA sequencing assists in finding similarities between suspects during crime investigations.
IS DNA TEST ERROR-FREE?
DNA Tests are accurate and error-free for the most part. This is because every organism on this planet has a unique DNA structure and sequence. It can be safely said that the DNA strand of one person is unique in identifying only him/her. There is a slight chance of error that occurs due to tampering of DNA or the contamination of a sample that is under test.
USE CASES OF DNA TESTING
There are some fascinating adoption of DNA testing into fields of medical and criminal investigations owing to its accuracy.
Brief information about DNA testing in the following areas has been mentioned below.
Forensics aren’t just limited to crime. It is a diverse field where DNA can be used at a faster rate for research and development. Here are a few use cases of it:
- It can be used in the crime sector to find the identity of the assailant.
- Determining the authenticity of mummy and their relation to the real person. It can also assess health and diseases that lead to the death of that particular specimen.
- DNA samples and structure can help recreate the entire structure of an organism.
- It can also be used in studying fossils of extinct animals.
Linkages to your previous ancestors or generations can be traced by DNA testing. This is performed via mitochondrial testing, which is then executed by examining samples of chromosomes. There are two sets of chromosomes, namely “X” and “Y.”
A fertilized egg will develop into a girl baby consisting of two X chromosomes. One of each chromosome is passed on from parents at the time of fertilization of the egg.
The fertilized egg, which will develop into a boy, is made of one X chromosome passed on from the mother, and the Y chromosome passed on from the father. The Y chromosome is present only in the male; hence, it is easier to determine father-son linkage.
Unlike the DNA present in the nucleus, which can be altered as per the environment, the mitochondrial DNA cannot be changed. This non-alteration is because the mitochondrial DNA represents the linkage between the mother and the child, which can never be altered.
With heredity being a familiar term; diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cancer can be transferred from one generation to another owing to the gene mutation of the DNA. Gene mutation enforces the offspring at a higher risk of contracting the diseases.
Gene mutation can be avoided with DNA testing, and appropriate vaccines can be administered to the person. For obesity, a person can choose to lead a healthier lifestyle. Cancer, however, in its final stages, is not curable. Albeit, in the initial stages, it can be diagnosed permanently.
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PRENATAL DNA TESTING
Prenatal testing is done to check the health of the mother and the child periodically. These tests help detect any problems that would affect the baby. These include congenital disabilities or genetic diseases. Prenatal tests could also help in pointing out any severe abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord.
The first screening is done usually during the first trimester. A sample of the mother’s blood and an ultrasound scan are kept under observation. Prenatal tests also indicate if the child has Down syndrome, a genetic chromosome 21 disorder inducing developmental and intellectual delays. The tests performed to detect this syndrome are called noninvasive prenatal diagnosis.
DNA testing in the modern day can be done at home via a DNA kit. However, it is always advised and recommended to have DNA tests done at certified facilities. DNA testing at facilities helps in deciding more information about ancestry and genetic problems if any.
DNA tests are better from paper-based tests as they bring families closer. If lucky enough, you might consider a few additions to your family.