The Future of Genetic Testing
Genetic testing is, indeed, not the final destination. The ultimate goal is to find therapies that zero in on the disease- causing gene and fix it for life
With each passing day, the role of genetics is evolving at a greater pace to involve a larger number of diseases. Specific genes have been attributed to illnesses like cancer, mental illness, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many other medical problems. Greater understanding, on the role of genes in these diseases, is required.
Gene therapy offers a much-needed panacea for certain genetic maladies. It is being used to treat cystic fibrosis and ADA deficiency but with restricted success. Gene therapy is being considered for disorders such as Sickle cell anemia, thalessemias and other blood disorders. However a complete cure for most of the diseases is still a long way off.
Genetic testing is,indeed, not the final destination. The ultimate goal is to find therapies that zero in on the disease- causing gene and fix it for life. Current research is focussing on the the variations in the genes of people with certain illnesses and how these variations differ from the genes in a normal individual. This will allow drugs and medications to be designed to target the affected genes instead of the current trial and error method.
Stem cell research is another genetic option with several countries opening stem cell banks. The stem cells are got from the blood of a donor, who is injected with a growth hormone five days prior to the transfusion day. Stem cells are amply released into the donor’s blood stream and they are collected and processed for the recipient’s use. The stem cells can also be collected fron cord blood during delivery. Stem cells have great potential to treat several diseases. A US-based organisation has undertaken to create a registry of non embryonic stem cell donors in India this year. This will usher in hope to several indians suffering from haematological diseases like leukemia.
The Human Genome Project, which was completed four years ago, has managed to map all of the genes on the human chromosomes. A part of the ‘Know thyself’ strategy, the genome map is a pointer to the progress made in finding definite cures for several ‘now incurable’ diseases. Despite its limitations, genetic testing has definitely improved the quality of several lives, by illuminating the road of ignorance