With recent developments of “direct to consumer” genetic tests, many problems arise. My last blog post revealed “both sides of the coin of genetic testing”. This is a continuation of that. So, what problems am I talking about?
A nice way to understand the possible effects of genetic testing at home is to relate it to what we already know. Think of pregnancy tests and drug tests that can all be done in the comfort of our bathrooms. We are also put in a position where we have to decipher the results ourselves and decide what actions we need to take after finding out the outcome.
This can be easily done with pregnancy tests and drug tests because they have been around for a bit longer, are more common to find and use, and don’t cost a lot. The problem with genetic tests is that not many know that such testing exists, believe that it costs a lot, and the results are not so easy to deal with all of the time. Lets say that you tested for the gene that may increase your chances of having Alzheimer’s disease in your old age and it turns out that you do indeed have it – people’s reactions might be entirely different. With pregancy tests, you have clear cut options – abortion, keep the child, keep the child and give it up for adoption, etc. With an incurable disease like Alzheimer, the only option is prevention, with the help of pharmacogenetics, to see what pill will be suited for you. For some, that is a big pill to swallow and like I mentioned in the previous post, it may lead to psychological problems.
This is not to mention that fact that “scientists first mapped the human genome 14 years ago. Since then, they have learned a lot about genetics, and someday that wisdom may lead to a cure for many diseases. But we’re not there yet. There’s “a ton we don’t understand,” says director of the genomics and society division at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
The genetic test is a wonderful tool that will indeed lead to a cure for many diseases, just be sure to do your research and don’t over-amplify your results.