Studying changes in genes and understanding the susceptibility people have to certain genetically inherited diseases can help doctors identify, prevent and treat many diseases. As Dr. Kevin Dalby explains, genetic testing is an innovative procedure that allows this all to happen.
Not all diseases can be identified through genetic testing, but many can. Here are seven conditions that can be identified through genetic testing.
#1. Hereditary Cancers
Some gene mutations that cause certain types of cancer can be passed from one generation to the next. Ovarian and breast cancer are two examples of this. Three separate genetic mutations are responsible for roughly 10% of all these types of cancers.
Genetic testing can help identify if a woman has mutations in these specific genes. Those who are found to have them are five times as likely to develop breast cancer compared to those who don’t eventually.
#2. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration is the most typical cause of vision loss irreversible in Americans who are at least 60 years old. Roughly 1.75 million people in the U.S. have AMD, which can cause people to lose vision in either one or eventually both of their eyes.
It’s been estimated that as many as 71% of these cases are hereditary.
#3. Celiac Disease
This autoimmune condition is an allergy to gluten, a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. Almost 2 million people in the U.S. are affected by this disease.
It’s estimated that as much as 87% of the disease can be attributed to a person’s genetics. It’s essential to identify this early, as the only “cure” for the disease is to switch to a diet that’s free from gluten.
It may seem counterintuitive, but 84% of obese people are affected in some way by genetics. Nearly 33% of all Americans are officially classified as obese, which means they have a body mass index of at least 30.
Variations in the FTO gene can account for roughly the difference of seven pounds of weight in a person. In other words, some people could be at a higher genetic risk for obesity than others.
#5. Bipolar Disorder
About 5.7 million people in the U.S. over 18 have bipolar disorder. There’s a significant genetic component to the disease, even if it’s not definitive how much of it is attributable to genetics.
Some estimates believe that someone’s genes could trigger as many as 93% of bipolar disorder cases. Genetic testing for this disorder searches for a specific protein encoded by a gene called ANK3.
Psoriasis is the autoimmune condition that’s most prevalent in the U.S, affecting up to 2% of the population. As much as 80% of this disease can be attributed to genetics. When combined with certain environmental conditions, mutations in the HLA-C gene contribute to psoriasis.
#7. Parkinson’s Disease
This neurological disorder affects roughly 500,000 Americans, and an additional 50,000 are diagnosed with it every year. As Dr. Kevin Dalby explains, research has found that mutations in the LRRK2 gene have been identified as a high-risk case of developing Parkinson’s Disease.
About Dr. Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teach and motivate students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.