Genetic testing or DNA-based tests have been around for years.  We are most familiar with these tests as it relates to things such as paternity tests, the screening potential parents for Huntington’s disease and an assortment of prenatal diagnostic testing.  Over the last five years, there has been an explosion in the presymptomatic testing area.  Presymptomatic tests are those where an analysis of your blood is used to see if you are in a higher risk group for any one of nearly 2,500 maladies.  Many women use this testing to see if they are at a higher risk of breast cancer.  Others like to screen to see if they are at risk to Alzeimer’s or dementia.  While it can be scary to know of ones genetic likelihood to a variety of ailments, once armed with that knowledge, you can take actions meant to try and minimize negative health consequences.


One recent test undertaken by 200 scientists looked for genes that affect brain size and intelligence.  This was not done for Aryan purposes but to identify the causes of diseases like Alzeimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder and dementia.  “Millions of people carry variations in their DNA that help boost or lower their brains’ susceptibility to a vast range of diseases,” states Paul Thompson of UCLA.  “Once we identify the gene, we can target it with a drug to reduce the risk of disease. People also can take preventive steps through exercise, diet and mental stimulation to erase the effects of a bad gene.”



This is where the advancement of genetic testing may be able to prevent people from a variety of diseases that might establish and advance inside of their bodies if not for early intervention by doctors as well as lifestyle choices by the person.


For all of the positive things that more information can provide, the knowledge can have a dark side too.  Employers and insurers could use this information against you.  To protect against this, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act or GINA makes it illegal for an employer to fire you based on your genes.  It also prohibits insurers from raising rates or denying coverage because of your genetic code.  There is a loophole.  The law does not apply to health insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance.


If you take a test that shows that you are genetically predisposed toward a malady that would require these types of insurance, you may have to disclose this information to the insurer.  Looking down the road, insurers could require testing to see what your predisposition is toward a host of illnesses.  Remember, insurance works best when many people pay insurance premiums but few need them.  Once again, those who are most likely to need the insurance are those that will find it most difficult to get the insurance.


Beyond insurance, a group of London-based scientists found that a genotype, rs4950, appears to be the leadership gene.  “The conventional wisdom that leadership is a skill remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait,” stated study author  Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of University College London.


All of this points out that there is a brave new world in front of us as it relates to our health and genetics and the resulting impact that it may all have on our involvement in society.  Findings that could lead to healthier, happier lives could also preclude people from opportunities if mishandled.  As genetic research becomes more involved in our daily lives, ethical and economic issues will need to be more fully discussed with additional government legislation needed to protect Americans from the misuse of this information.