Have you ever wonder if you could be at risk of a chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer one day in the future?
Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could know your risk before actually developing the diseases it self. Each of us has a unique set of chemical blueprints affecting how our body looks and functions. These blueprints are contained in our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), long, spiral-shaped molecules found inside every cell.
Your DNA is a genetic code that contains all the instructions needed to make an organism like you, to renew your cells and to keep your body functioning properly. The human genetic code consists of about 3 billion of these four kinds of nucleotides. Each of your cells contains two copies of this genetic code, one inherited from your mother and the other from your father.
The sequence of these four bases determines the genetic code. The specific segments of DNA that contain the instructions for making specific body proteins are called genes. Some genes direct the formation of proteins that eventually determine physical features such as brown eyes or curly hair.
Genes are found in specific segments along the length of human DNA, neatly packaged within structures called chromosomes. Every human cell contains 46 chromosomes, arranged as 23 pairs. Of the 23 chromosome pairs, 22 are known as autosomal, where the paired chromosomes are almost identical in size and content. The remaining pair consists of sex chromosomes, known as such because they carry the genes responsible for sex determination.
It is in your genetic makeup that you can discover your predisposition for various conditions and diseases. Most people already know something about the medical history of their parents and grandparents, but they may not know what conditions are inheritable or how different diseases are connected.
Medical researchers have identified many single base changes in the DNA, which are linked to diseases, and genetic screening is designed to detect them. As all the cells in the human body have the same set of DNA, any cell can be used to screen for genetic changes. Most commonly, blood, saliva and swabs samples from the inside of your mouth (buccal cavity) are used in genetic screening.
Genetic screening for predispositions to chronic and lifestyle induced diseases in the only preventive investigation we have at hand. Knowing if you are at risk of a particular disease will empower you to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle and environment so you can prevent or delay the onset of the disease.