What is DNA testing and where do I do it?

 

Published: 04/03/2018

A person’s DNA is often referred to as a ‘genetic fingerprint’ and quite rightly so! DNA is in fact a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms. This genetic information is stored in a very specific sequence and that’s what differentiates one person from another. This means that a person’s DNA is completely unique and specific to that person, his or hers very own genetic passport (the only exception being monozygotic twins).

An important property of DNA is that it can replicate or make copies of itself. This is why nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. For testing purposes a number of samples can be used such as blood, hair, saliva, skin and almost anything else for that matter.

With the help of modern technology and the constant advances in science, DNA testing has become a powerful diagnostic tool that is largely used in several different fields.

Close, but not quite like on television

Have you ever watched an episode of CSI, where they find a tiny particle of skin under someone’s fingernail and ta-dah! - just like magic they obtain a genetic profile of someone they can actually track down through their database.

Well, whilst not quite as simple and straightforward as in the movies, forensic investigation with the use of DNA samples is an extremely important process that not only helps properly identify evidence in crimes, but is also used to identify victims of mass casualty incidents and bodies/body parts of people who were in serious accidents. Several laboratories specialize on forensic DNA testing.

DNA testing for animals

Believe it or not, but the same type of genetic disorder testing is important for our best and most loved furry companions – dogs! Canine DNA testing has become increasingly popular over the past few years, as we love them and want to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. A DNA test for a dog can also identify their breed-specific predisposition to certain conditions, thus allowing their owners to be pro-active about their health. Many laboratories provide this interesting service.

Genetic Disorder Testing

DNA testing also plays an important role in medical advances with regards to a number of different genetic disorders, such as Cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, Alzheimer's disease and many others. A genetic disorder test is done to identify a change or mutation in a particular gene and therefore establish if the person has or can develop a condition specific to that genetic disorder. A lot of groundwork has already been done in this field, which has led to the development of new treatments for several conditions. The long-term goal is that we will understand the human genome so well, that we will be able to not only identify genetic disorders, but prevent them from becoming symptomatic even before birth!

DNA Testing for family relationships

Although most people associate DNA testing with blood, the most reliable genetic testing standard is in fact done with saliva or, more officially, Buccal cells. The easiness of the procedure means that it can be used for almost any type of test and it is the absolute choice for doing a parental DNA test, more commonly known as a paternity test. There are several personal and legal reasons why some parents might question the biological relationship with their children. A paternity test is the simplest and safest way to get a clear result and set your mind at ease. And though most commonly done between fathers and children, this type of test of test can be used to establish or confirm any other kind of biological relationship – between a mother and child, between 2 or more siblings (brothers/sisters), grandparents and their grandchildren and so much more!

DNA testing for ancestral origins

With some 232 million people in the world being international migrants, it can be a challenge sometimes to identify where we, or rather our family roots, really come from. A lot of people find themselves questioning their own heritage as far as several family generations back and would love to have a better understanding of their ethnic and geographic origin. This is where DNA testing can really help, because our DNA also contains the information of our evolution, migrations , interbreeding and mixing. Every distinct ethnic group has one mutation in its genome that sets it apart from the rest of the world's population. When multiple people carry a specific mutation, they are said to belong to the same genetic tribe. An ancestral origins test matches your DNA to the mutations associated with many reference populations, and reveals the results with the possible locations, regions. The algorithm used for this type of test is also constantly improving and the comparative DNA database is growing, which is why with time it is expected to produce even more location accurate results.