DNA testing is so common today that you'll now find companies that let you submit a sample for testing via the mail, but you may want to think about some of the uses for genetic testing before undergoing testing yourself. Though some tests can help you learn more about your heritage and your relatives, other tests let you know more about your general health and your outlook for the future.
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, a branch of Stanford, lists predictive testing as one of the top uses for genetic testing. Also called presymptomatic genetic testing, this type of test can let you know if you have any of the genes associated with a specific medical condition. Huntington's disease is a condition that can impact your motor skills and eventually take away your ability to speak. A genetic test can reveal whether you have the gene for this disease and whether you have a risk of suffering from the condition later in life. Genetic testing can also identify genes associated with other diseases.
Testing for Carriers
If you are a carrier for a specific disease, you have a chance of passing that gene on to your future children. The chance of passing on those genes or a child suffering from that condition will increase if both parents are carriers. If you have a family history of a disease like Huntington's, both you and your spouse can go through carrier testing before you have children. Your results may determine whether you have biological children or whether you adopt.
One of the uses for genetic testing among law enforcement is forensic testing. Forensic testing allows police officers to identify criminals who committed crimes. When a woman files a police report and claims a man raped her, she will have a rape test done in the hospital. That test will take samples of any sperm, hair or other genetic materials found on her body. Laboratory workers can then compare those samples to suspected criminals to identify the person responsible for the crime. Law enforcement can also use forensic genetic testing in assault and murder cases.
Several companies now offer genealogy testing. The companies charge a fee upfront and then send a testing kit to your home. You will supply either a cheek swab or a saliva sample and mail back your sample. The company will then test your sample, compare it to other samples received and send you back your results within eight weeks. Genealogy testing lets you know where your family came from and which genetic markers you have. This can help clear up any confusion regarding your heritage and give you an idea as to where your family came from before arriving in the United States.
Proving paternity is another of the common uses for genetic testing. Laboratories offer this type of testing for women who are unsure of who fathered their children and men who worry that they aren't the fathers of their children. Most require a cheek swab taken from the infant, but some may require that the man submit a hair sample. Paternity tests are especially important in cases regarding child support. Many states give named fathers just 12 months to submit to a paternity test before the state will officially name that man the father of a child.
Genetic testing refers to tests that determine your genetics. Law enforcement uses this tests when looking at suspected criminals, and couples can request paternity tests too. Other uses for genetic testing include genealogy testing and both carrier and predictive testing for specific diseases.