DNA is a very complex molecule that is loaded with your history and ancestry. Genes located within the DNA molecule can tell what health risks you may have in future and which ones you may pass on to your children. Many people are intrigued by DNA because it is the encyclopedia of your life – both the past and future.
Today, many companies offer DNA testing. Some people get DNA testing to determine paternity, others get DNA testing to determine if the fetus or newborn has any disease and yet others get DNA testing to know more about their family tree. However, the vast majority of people get DNA testing to determine if they carry a gene for a disease.
Here are five things you need to know about DNA:
1. Your DNA has four building blocks
Your DNA is built using four building blocks which include the nucleotides adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine. Parents and children share 99.5% of the same DNA. Each DNA strand is approximately 1.8 meters long but is squeezed into a space of only 0.09 micrometers. DNA is present in every cell of our body.
2. Human DNA is oddly similar to chimpanzees
Here’s an interesting fact about DNA. Human DNA is 95 percent identical to the DNA of chimpanzees, 50 percent identical to the DNA of bananas, and at least 40 percent identical to the DNA of cabbages.
3. DNA information doesn’t always reflect your status of health
You don’t need to be worried about your DNA and the information it holds in your regular life.
Even if there are certain circumstances that require you to obtain more information, you should only make an effort if you know what you will do with that information.
Remember, many genetic disorders have no treatments so even if you find out that you are at risk of developing Alzheimer disease or Huntington chorea, what are you going to do? These disorders have no cure. All it will do is stress you out. However, if the test shows that you have the gene that carries a risk of breast cancer, then you may need to speak to a specialist.
You should keep in mind that interpreting genetic information is not always straightforward, and you may have to speak to several medical specialists, some of who may have differing opinions.
4. DNA testing can detect some diseases, but not every single one
One has to be realistic when asking for such a test. DNA testing cannot detect the presence of every disease that exists. Many genes still have not been isolated, and it may take years till that happens. So, do not fall for the hype in the media that tells you that it can detect every single disease. It cannot. Unless and until there is a particular disease that runs in your family and that you need to be aware of and prepare for, you don’t need to get all worried about getting a DNA test.
5. DNA testing is cheap…but also not cheap
There are many companies which sell all types of homemade kits for DNA testing. You insert the swab in your mouth, place it in a vial and then reship to the lab to have the DNA analyzed. This simple kit that uses only a sample costs $25. To analyze the DNA, it can cost you anywhere from $200 to $2,000 depending on what is being analyzed. A simple paternity test can cost anywhere from $250 to $500.
Finally, there are so many DNA labs that you have no idea if they are bona fide and no one knows if the results they provide are real or false because there is a lack of regulation of these labs.
So, be careful who you turn to if you really want accurate DNA results.