A New Era in Medical Assessment That Will Transform How We Will Look at Our Health
Genetic (DNA) testing can identify common, important and modifiable quirky genes called SNPs or single nucleotide polymorphisms, which create vulnerabilities to many kinds of allergic, infectious, immune, toxic, nutritional and psycho-emotional stress. Depending on your health interests, several panels are available. Most tests are non-invasive, involving only a mouth swab, and most are insurance covered or preauthorized so there is usually little out-of-pocket expenses.
Here are a few panels that you might be interested in. The first 3 panels cover the risks for the top 3 leading causes of death and disability, heart disease, cancer and drug reactions, which altogether account for the lion’s share of medical and psychiatric risks.
a. Pharmacogenetics or PGx. By testing only a dozen genes, we can determine which medications are right for you. If you have SNPs which break down a medication too quickly, it will not work. On the other hand, SNPs which metabolize a medication too slowly can cause it to build up to very high levels in your body and cause severe adverse reactions or even death. Medication mortality rates are between the 2nd to 4th leading cause of death, depending on the research one believes. PGx is generally insurance covered.
b. Cancer Genomics is also insurance covered, and it tests for SNPs which create risks for 8 common types of cancer by assessing 41 SNPs. If you have a family history of cancer this important test can assess risk, and suggest that more frequent early detection radiology and bloodwork should be performed to catch cancer at its earliest development when it is easily cured. Also, by knowing the exact SNPs which put you at risk for cancer, certain nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes can alter genetic expression and decrease risk.
c. Cardiogenomics. These panels can assess for various kinds of heart disease and risk factors such as hypertension. The proper drug to reduce risk based on these genetic factors can be chosen, and nutritional and lifestyle interventions can be adopted which match your genetic makeup so that the risk of various kinds of heart disease can be negated.
d. AAT – Alpha -1-antitrypsin is a free test for SNPs which can cause emphysema and liver disease, even when lifestyle risks are not occurring, such as alcohol or tobacco abuse. This test involves a finger stick blood sample.
e. Courtagen panels can test for modifiable mitochondrial SNPs, which can cause lead to neurodegenerative disorders, autism and intractable seizure disorders. These tests are also often covered by insurance.
f. 23 and me – www.23and Me.com is recommended in every patient, but it is a consumer test that you do on your own (we can’t order it for you). Go online and contact 23andMe and order the kit ($199). It will arrive by mail. Follow instructions for saliva collection, mailing and registering the test online. The 23 and me information will suggest that this test is only for ancestry geneology, but for an additional $30, we will show you how to convert the raw data link into a few hundred genomic SNPs. Important information on neurotransmitter-related genesfor psychiatric vulnerabilities and addictions and many other problems can be revealed by this test.
g. Whole genome testing is available and it searches for SNPs in all 22,000 genes and can even find rare abnormalities. This test is not yet covered by insurance and costs about $3,500. The company is New Amsterdam.
The human genome was mapped only 13 years ago, and already it is changing healthcare. Getting to the genetic root causes of human suffering, especially common, important and modifiable SNPs, provides important data to prevent and treat all chronic medical and psychiatric disorders. Genomic testing is increasingly affordable, insurance covered and clinically actionable.
You only need a genetic test once (your DNA doesn’t significantly change in life) but it is critical to know how you respond to lifestyle, supplements and medications.
Blog by Dr. Charles Gant- Contact at NIHA (202-237-7000)