Genetic Medicine 101
Your DNA is What Makes You Unique
Your DNA is What Makes You Unique
You are made up of cells. Cells know what to do because of the DNA, your body’s instruction book, inside each cell. The instructions within sections of the DNA – called genes – build, maintain and regulate your body’s functions. The differences that each of us have in the structure of our genes are called variation. This variation makes each of us unique.
Thousands of genes are organized and packaged into units called chromosomes. Humans have 23 chromosome pairs – one of each pair contains genetic information from your biological mother, the other from your biological father.
Learn how the cells of your body organize genetic material and use sets of instructions contained in your DNA to carry out vital processes that keep your body healthy. These sets of instructions are called genes.
Genes are instructions guiding development through building your body’s proteins. The differences, or variations, in our genes are part of what makes us each unique.
A complete family history is a powerful tool. It can help identify if you are at increased risk for certain conditions. By using your family history, genetic professionals can determine if some health concerns are more likely to be due to genetic factors or random incidents.
Finding the correct medication for your body is complicated. Many variables affect each person’s response to medication. And pharmacogenomics— the study of how heredity (genetics and identity) influences your drug response — may help your provider identify the best medication for you.
When you receive your results, please do not stop your medication(s) or make any medication changes before consulting with your provider first. A Sanford pharmacist will contact your provider regarding medication recommendations.
Genetic testing is a personal choice. Patients receive valuable information about their DNA, their genetic blueprint. One factor to consider before pursuing genetic testing is its impact on the extended family.
Genetic testing uses laboratory methods to analyze your genetic material. Genetic professionals like genetic counselors and geneticists are available to interpret results from genetic tests and offer guidance in what steps to take next.
Some genetic tests are used as screening tools that may place patients into high-risk or low-risk categories for certain genetic conditions. Other genetic tests are diagnostic, meaning they can provide clear evidence of what genetic condition a patient may have. Genetic testing information may guide screening recommendations, treatment options and other medical management considerations.
There are many types of genetic tests. Which genetic test is chosen depends on the reason for testing. Genetic professionals are trained to analyze your unique case and can offer a recommendation on the most appropriate type of genetic test based on factors like your family medical history, signs and symptoms, and your insurance coverage.
The process of genetic testing can sometimes cause anxiety. All tests have a very small chance of error. The risks of giving a sample can vary depending on the type of sample required. Please consult with your legal advisor for more information about insurance and privacy concerns.
Precision medicine is an approach to disease management that takes into account a person’s environment, lifestyle and genes. At Sanford Health, we utilize precision medicine in clinical care through our physicians accessing information saved in a patient’s electronic medical record following genetic testing for use when prescribing medications or building a care plan.
Kevin Francis, Ph.D., studies fatal childhood Batten disease at Sanford Research
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