Living in this age of instant information, it’s understandable that people are interested in finding out what their risks are for developing certain diseases. Not surprisingly, a handful of companies have stepped up to offer mail order kits to let us take a peek into our genetic destiny. However, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), some test results contradicted others, while some test results are often inaccurate or misleading. While there is no consensus yet on the reliability of mail order genetic testing, the science is, in theory, sound. Using samples from commercial human tissue banks and genotyping services like Bioserve, researchers have been able to discover indications of who may be susceptible to specific diseases.
Here are some of the diseases scientists have isolated the gene markers for.
Of the over 200,000 breast cancer diagnoses American women are given each year, the vast majority are given to women with no known family history of breast cancer – but up to 10 percent are due to mutations in the BTCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
About 2 million Americans are affected by Celiac Disease. Proteins called gluten, which is commonly found in wheat, rye and barley trigger an autoimmune condition that attacks small intestine tissue, causing abdominal pain and diarrhea.
The only treatment for Celiac disease is preventing further intestinal damage by adhering to a gluten-free diet. Tests have identified the culprit by looking for an immune system protein called HLA-DQ. According to genetic testing experts, genetics could be the cause of up to 87 percent of diagnosed Celiac disease cases.
According to the National Institute of Health, the disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder, affects 5.7 million Americans adults in any given year. The disorder appears to have a strong genetic link, and researchers believe up to 93% of cases can be triggered by heredity. Testing looks for a protein marker encoded by the ANK3 gene.
Approximately one-third of Americans have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30, or weigh at least 100 pounds more than their ideal weight, classifying them as obese. While scientists aren’t sure of the number of genes involved, some testing indicates that up to 84 percent of those affected have a genetic cause. A recent study indicated that fatty tissue has higher levels of the FTO gene, which could account for up to 7 pounds of weight difference.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis affects more than 2 percent of the population – as many as 7.5 million Americans – making it the most prevalent autoimmune condition in the U.S. Psoriasis is caused by immune cells attacking the skin, and research indicates that up to 80 percent of cases could be caused by variations in a gene called HLA-C.