Q&A: The Science Behind Personal Genetics Testing
A growing number of universities are offering classes on personal genetics to educate students about a medical field that is becoming increasingly important as the price of genetic testing drops. Here’s a look at the basics:
Q: What is genetic testing and genotyping?
A: A genetic test analyzes DNA to look for a specific gene to test for the presence of a condition, such as Huntington’s disease. Genotyping goes far beyond that, analyzing several or even thousands of variants across an individual’s full set of genes, known as the genome.
Q: How can you get such testing done?
A: Medical providers use the testing routinely. It helps them diagnose patients who have symptoms of a disease, screen newborn infants for disease risks, tell parents whether their unborn child will have a genetic condition, and determine the amount and type of medicine best suited for a patient.
But what is becoming more available and common is testing done by private companies marketing services directly to consumers, such as 23AndMe and AncestryDNA. These tests typically analyze thousands of different variants but do not look at the entire genome. The tests can cost $99 to more than $1,000, depending on the extent of testing done. 23AndMe and AncestryDNA require individuals to submit saliva samples, and initial results can be available within six weeks.