Today, we can buy a wide variety of products online, as well – DNA testing. What urges us to explore our cells on the internet? Curiosity to explore our ancestry roots? Desire to understand our body at a deeper level so that we could lead a healthier happier life? Or, perhaps, the search for a weapon against an unexpected, seemingly hopeless disease? Or is it a concern, a desire to know as accurately as possible the genetic fate of our future offspring? It is personal goal that dictates the path in the genomic labyrinths: to acquire a DNA test and its results online or to register with a medical professional – geneticist.
The individual is a unique mosaic of chromosomes
The human body is made up of cells, each with 23 pairs of chromosomes. The nucleus of the cell stores the information necessary for the development and efficient functioning of the whole organism. This information is DNA.
DNA genetic testing is used to identify diseases, follow your ancestry, and find appropriate ways to maintain health.
DNA testing is a new way of learning about the human body at the cellular level. Until very recently, we perceived ourselves only through the visible physical body.
Research into the mind, consciousness, and subconscious has relatively recently become a common aspect of self-care. Today, apart from the widespread use of holistic methods of cognition through physiology and psychology, it is also possible to dive even deeper – that is, to analyze yourself at the cellular level.
In 2017 the USA Food and Drug Administration has approved the first direct-to-consumer genetic tests (in this text we will abbreviate DTC GT and DNA). The dilemma arose as to whether this information, which became easily accessible to the general public, would not bring certain confusion into the medical genetic research and genomic science practice.
Buy online or register with a doctor?
So which road to choose to know your 23 chromosome pairs - to register with a geneticist or buy a DNA test online with a few clicks of a button? Only you know the answer because your goal dictates the road. When it comes to lifestyle, striving for a healthier life, moving ever closer to harmony and balance – generalized answers to your concerns are likely to come from a genetic test sold directly to the user. If you want to explore your racial, national, regional background, the DTC GT will satisfy this curiosity. However, if you need to trace a disease based on genetically encoded information, if there are complex issues related to paternity identification or health aspects of the fetus, it is best to consult the geneticist.
Medical genetic testing helps to identify changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins and thus determine the risk of various diseases such as cancer, the likelihood of fetal malformations, gender, etc.
Medical and health care professionals fear that having too much information about oneself can lead to a paranoid relationship with one’s body or its transformation. Inaccurate interpretation of genetic data can also lead to confusion when analyzing ancestry relationships. Dry research data without a comprehensive examination of the individual and a full analysis can lead to faulty conclusions, as sometimes DNA data also indicates a very low, not necessarily realistic probability. Only a professional research analysis and then linking that analysis to a particular person’s health condition, his or her real-life facts, can decipher complex genetic codes.
While companies offering DTC GT services online rely on scientific excellence and provide accurate, advanced laboratory research, still their data is not linked to a particular persons’ life context.
To use DTC GT analysis for objective generalization, professional geneticist analysis is required. The same goes for ancestry: if you want to know your abstract origins by region, race, nationality, it is interesting to explore the generalized DTC GT ancestry data systems and your abstract statistical place in them. However, if precise ancestry relationships are to be established, medical genetic testing and consultation with a medical geneticist are essential.
What does a DNA test tell you?
DNA is the key to human nature, encoding our bodily past, present, and future. Available online DNA tests offer information that summarizes all of this. But how deep is it worth diving and will we find our authentic truth in that depth? We have already mentioned that a DNA test can trace the complex links between parenthood and ancestry, detect the genetic codes of various diseases - but let's leave all this to strict medical limits. If we are curious to improve our lifestyle, our wellness routine, let's take a look at the opportunities offered by the DTC GP market.
Several of the world’s leading companies in this field offer to find your relatives in more than 2,000 regions around the world and going up to 80,000 years back! The principles of DNA linkage can be used to trace existing relationships between ancestry and its origins around the world. Genetic testing laboratories work according to certified standards using unique genotype technologies. Some companies providing this type of service claim that the error possibility is less than 0,1 percent. So, if you are just curious to know about your deepest roots - your curiosity will be satisfied.
Another type of product – presentation of genetically programmed health data. Companies call it DNA health kits and they offer to model your lifestyle, health, nutrition, and movement habits based on them. In a sense, these studies can be useful in practice: they go deep into the inherited state of health. With such information, measures can be taken to maintain a healthy state of the body, to prevent certain possible genetically programmed ailments.
DNA testing service providers believe (and health care professionals probably will not object) that by knowing certain genetically programmed risk factors for certain diseases, we can reduce or prevent them by changing diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. After all, diseases also have a genetic component and can be detected through DNA testing. So online packages of DNA health kits can help you understand the role of genetics in your life and possibly find ways to optimize your health.
Personalized health wellness recipe
Thus, genetic research theoretically provides humans with the information they need to manage their inherited, innate data. In some sense, a DNA test can positively change lives, inspire healthy lifestyle habits. The health well-being (as well as ancestral tracing) test is very simple - you order a test kit online. When you receive your test kit, you take a saliva sample from your mouth and send it by pre-registered return mail to the company's laboratory. Your results will be ready after 6-8 weeks and they can be accessed on the online platform at any time before you express a wish to remove them.
Based on DNA health kit test results you can get information about your vitamin uptake, nutrient metabolism, dietary and physical activity recommendations, oxygen circulation tendencies, your tendons durability, the collagen structure, tendency to lesions (which can affect your choice of sport and its intensity). It is relevant to many people how the body tolerates lactose, gluten, how the body is affected by alcohol, how the caffeine is absorbed - maybe it is worth avoiding or giving it up altogether? What is the probability of sports injuries, what is the innate resistance to stress?
Thus, genetic information can be useful in making lifestyle adjustments, as it provides an opportunity to take care of one's health, to learn more about the risks of various diseases in the future, and to choose ways to prevent those diseases. However, there are also some negative aspects to this unique service.
Side effects of DNA information
Today, in the information age, the issue of data security is more relevant than ever. Companies offering DTC GT often use biological samples and health information collected from customers for research purposes. They guarantee the highest EU, USA standards of data protection (ISO 27001), and provide the possibility to delete your DNA data at any time. Companies encourage their potential clients to carefully read and sign the consent form before ordering a study. However, the consumer needs to understand the information provided, in particular the part concerning the protection of the privacy of the test results, the possible disclosure of data to third parties, as well as the further processing of biological samples after the test results. If a sample taken at home is sufficient for genetic testing, there is an increased risk that proper consent will not be obtained. It is sometimes questionable whether genetic data will not be misused for future research or will not be transferred to third parties (for marketing purposes of food supplements, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, etc).
Another risk is a misinterpretation of the data obtained, which can lead to unreasonably suspicious attitudes towards one's health, suspicion towards personal identity or the identity of close ones, it can provoke self-medication tendencies, it can affect family relationships. Thus, interpretations of DNA test results without professional supervision can have detrimental physical and psychological consequences.
It is important to understand that DTC GT only allows a person to be assigned to a risk group, indicating a relatively low risk of disease, as these studies provide information only on certain gene variants, but not all possible genetic alterations. Besides, environmental factors and lifestyle may influence the onset of the disease. Therefore, a prerequisite for clinical value is the quality of the genetic test itself, the compliance of the laboratories performing the genetic testing with the established requirements, and the appropriate qualification of the specialists providing the services. Rapid DNA testing could be part of good medical practice if the decision to perform such a test would be made in an individual’s health care context, with the involvement of a health care professional.
To sum up, the DTC GT is interpretive, at best preventive, tool that satisfies curiosity and can serve as an inspiration for a healthier, better quality of life. However, if you decide to perform DTC GT, it is recommended that you consult your doctor about the results of the test before making any lifestyle changes. Before ordering a DNA test online, it is recommended to make sure that the qualifications of the laboratories where these tests are performed and the personnel meet the performance quality criteria. Also, be sure to clarify the issues of protecting the confidentiality of your genetic information.