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Can genetic testing tell your life expectancy?

Once, thought to be the difficult and expensive, genetic testing is rapidly becoming an easy customer produce. With a tiny dribble and 200 bucks, you can figure out the risks from cystic fibrosis to lactose intolerance. But it’s really central to keep in mind that not all genetic tests and reports are created equal and carry equal amount of baggage. Genes are very, very important but they don’t really cap your fate! In Greek myth, the sum of time a person consumes on earth was calculated at natal stage by the length of a thread twirled and cut by the Fates. Modern genetics advocates that there are particular DNA threads called telomeres which have been linked to life expectancy! But new experiments are undoing old ideas about fate.

The DNA that makes up our genes is entangled in 46 chromosomes and each chromosome ends with a telomere; a telomere is nothing but a stretch of DNA that shields the chromosome like the plastic tip on a shoelace. Telo­meres are lengthy at birth and reduces in length after every cell division; eventually, after many such divisions, very less amount of telomere persists and the cell either becomes inactive or it leads to cell-death. Generally elderly people contain less lengthy telomeres than younger people do, scientists concluded that the length of the telomere is an indicator for longevity and also cellular health. Now new researches are determining that experiences which can be situational or creative can have its effect on the telomeres—interesting new suggestion for foster’s impact on nature. In a study made in Duke University, analysed DNA samples from 5-year-old children and again when they were 10 had been taken and during this interval, some had been exposed to physical abuse/ bullying and domestic violence’s too. And the results from Idan Shalev, genetic study’s lead author states that children who were exposed to multiple forms of violence had the fastest destruction of their telomeres, in comparison with the children who went through one type of ferocity or did not experience anything at all. Similar studies which was held at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, explains the possible physical consequences of chronic stress. From a rough sample of 5,243 nurses nationwide, nurses who suffered from shortenings like phobias had comparatively shorter telomeres than those who didn’t exhibit such shortcomings. It was like examining and comparing the telomeres of a 60-year-old and a 66-year-old, says Olivia Okereke, the study’s lead author.

Telomeres play a very important role in protecting chromosome ends says Carol Greider, a molecular biologist at the Johns Hopkins University. She also stated that when the telomeres grow to become very, very short, there are unexpected consequences, observing an increment in the risk of age-related ailments. There also lies a few lists of things that can lead to the shortening of telomeres (smoking, for example, and transferable diseases), and there are also some activities that can slow down telomere degradation. According to a German study, people who are in their 40s and 50s had telomeres about 40-50% shorter than in comparison to people in their 20s if they were inactive, but there were cases where the telomeres were shorter by 10 percent if the former had a balanced lifestyle. The scientists haven’t really found out how negative life experiences and skills can become a reason for telomere degradation and how positive characteristics slat it off. Moreover, telomeres which have been directly implicated in a few age-related diseases are unable to state whether or not shorter telomeres cause aging or do they simply accompany them. But according to the New Telomere Science, living species can, to some extent, influence how much time they have!

  • Who exactly should get a genetic test?

Basically, anyone who is inquisitive about her/his health can get Genetic tests done as they are diagnostic. But they turn out to be more informative if your reports suggest that you are at the risk for a genetic disorder! Heavy-duty genetic tests are in use as a clinical tool for about half a century now just before 23andMe and Ancestry.com (websites related to genetic testing) started providing at your service customer tests. A genetic test can be done for breast cancer if you may have inherited an abnormal version of the BRCA gene, which increases its consequences at a fairly rapid pace. Heidi Rehm, associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School says it is very mutual for people to get checked-up when they suspect or know that they have a genetic disease or a disorder; else they should have shown symptoms of rather widely known to be genetic disorder like sickle cell anaemia. Now-a-days infants are tested for genetic dysfunctionalities!

Genetic tests are done if both the partners have a history of genetic diseases. For instance, cystic fibrosis is connected to one particular gene, but inheritance of the abnormal version of the gene from both your parents will cause that disease. But there are chances where each one of you may carry one copy of the faulty gene which leads to the inheritance of that disease in your child! Genetic tests are done to forewarn this possibility before it is too late. But Rehm says “I do think there are situations where prognostic genetic testing is extremely important and useful”, like Angelina Jolie got a double mastectomy after finding out she had a mutated BRCA gene. But genetic tests may not be as direct and simple as they appear. So, keep in mind, that a genetic test doesn’t become the final verdict—there are other influences at play too!

  • Can genetic tests forecast my longevity?

Genes do play a part in calculating lifespan. Scientists have researched about centenarian and discovered that people with certain forms of genes which are involved in repairing DNA tend to survive longer, as aging leaves its mark on the DNA. Environmental factors too can damage DNA, and the repetitive chore of replication of cells can announce mistakes as the 3 billion units of the DNA are copied over and over. Long-lived individuals possess different sequence of DNA that seem to make their cells better at keeping them in mint condition!
But finding out your death date is more complicated than just testing for a few genes, says Jan Vijg, professor of genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Through theoretical facts, the design of a test that looks at specific genes and might measure the risk for incurring Alzheimer’s Disease or other age-related diseases, or the risk for aging quickly. To some extent, yes! Biomarkers will provide some information about the chances of living a long life, Vijg says. Again, that works if you live a balanced life! The most susceptible fragments of the chromosome are the chromosome’s tips, which gets shorter as per the age because they aren’t correctly replicated. But telomere length can compare the DNA now with the DNA from a decade ago, but one person’s telomeres cannot be compared with other people’s telomeres. There lies a lot of differences between individuals, Vijg says. The methylation test, which gives a clear view about the chemical groups attached to the DNA, undergoes changes as a person ages. And that might be a better bet to test upon! A study at UCLA stated that these chemical group changes took place at a slower pace in longer-lived people. If you conclude to unlock the secrets of your DNA with a genetic test, don’t take those results for more than their worth!

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  • Can a genetic test foresee my medical future?

Not entirely, its possibility is limited. Plenty of conditions branch from environmental to lifestyle factors and pre-medical conditions, they may influence the genes, but the peripheral factors are the real trigger! But even if a disease is instigated only by faulty instructions in the genes, one won’t essentially test for it. The reason being genetic tests are mostly used for diseases that are “penetrant”. A genetic test requires small sample of cells, like a blood sample or spittle (which doesn’t contain DNA itself, but picks up cheek cells). In the lab sequencing machines match up small pieces of synthetic DNA with the particular person’s DNA to map the overall sequence. After producing that person’s sequence, geneticists can compare it with normal or disease-causing sequences. For instance, the breast cancer-linked gene BRCA1 can give a 60% chance of getting breast cancer. Hence genetic tests make it easier in detecting the so-called rare diseases but, they’re less productive when it comes to more communal diseases, like heart disease or diabetes.

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Possible factors that makes you live longer!
Women outlast men by an average of 5 years. Tom Kirkwood at Newcastle University in the UK says it could be due to better repairing mechanisms in a women’s body.
People who are born in autumn or early winter live suggestively longer than those born in late spring. British immigrants to Australia show outlines similar to those of Danes and Austrians, and conflicting to people who are Australian-born, signifying the effect happens during early development.
After observing 490 sets of skeletal remains, measuring bone length and calculating age of death from dental degradation, a UK research team concluded that tall people have higher longevity rate.


Genetic testing and screening came into extensive use with prenatal tests—amniocentesis and alpha fetoprotein testing—for Down syndrome, neural tube defects, and other disorders. Since their initiation in the 1970s, prenatal tests have been connected with abortion controversy due to the available chances of termination of a foetus by a woman. A major long-standing concern about genetic testing is that people are at increased stage of risk for a solemn condition and that they could face judgements, which initiated the passage of the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act in 2008. At present the Government doesn’t normalize at your service genome tests, which entitles in providing information about a person’s genetic risk of getting diseases as well as nonmedical information such as ancestry/paternity. The precision of these tests is in interrogation, and their results can be misinterpreted by the consumer. They also elevate wider societal concerns—for instance, whether the results are permissible in court.


It was expected that the discovery of genetic mutations related with particular disorders would increasingly lead to better understanding and offer better treatments for disorders. Though research is continually increasing our understanding about how genes interrelate with each other and with the environment to cause diseases/disorders, the anticipations for a straight connection between genetic testing and disease prevention haven’t borne fruit. Gene therapy or drugs which are specifically targeted towards mutations don’t really exist. Thus, the paybacks of genetic testing depend on the effectiveness of standard screening, prevention, and treatments for the condition is in interrogation. An individual found through a genetic test is to have a considerably increased risk of disease can, take advantage of these systems at a younger age than it is suggested for the over-all population, hence increasing the chance of figuring-out the disease when it is still treatable.

So far, the advantages of genetic testing in preventing particular diseases have been varied. There is a commanding benefit from genetic testing for hereditary forms of colon cancer. A positive genetic test result can in fact prevent cancer by guiding people to have an early colonoscopy screening to find and remove precancerous polyps. The benefits of breast cancer genetic testing—which has been the aim of chiefly strong interest—are less striking exactly because of lesser known history of the disease, and fewer actual methods of prevention occur. Additionally, breast cancer screening tests have its limits, such as the failure to detect the disease in a precancerous stage. Data’s show that breast MRI may be more powerful than mammography for early detection in women at high risk. But the most effective disease prevention decision—prophylactic mastectomy—appears to be improper to the majority of women at risk. A great deal of interest has turned to pharmacogenomics, the study of how differences in the human genome affect the response to medications. The promise of pharmacogenomics is the outlook of tailoring present drug routines to individual patients in ways that will improve efficiency and provide more cost-effective care.


Some DTC testing companies pursue business by offering a payment service that allows subscribers to contact new research findings on a repeated basis. The “Cadillac” forms of this include 23andme and deCODEme, which will sequence your entire genome and provide a report for just $1,000 and also lets the person equate themselves with others on the basis of height, intelligence, the ability to circumvent decisional errors, and many more. Many unnecessary traits such as addictions, as well as genetic facts like earwax type and sensitivity to the smell of sweat can also be detected and observed. The 23andme Web site is thorough in stating the level of suggestions on which each result is based on. Whether individuals can compare their own degree of hope/trust based on the site’s sign is an open question.


The complete initiative of DTC genetic testing, particularly medical testing, raises multiple alarms:

  1. People may take up these tests without grasping their stern personal and family inferences.
  2. Test results sent via mail may be misinterpreted.
  3. Individuals might indulge in the process of changing their drug dosages based on opposing drug effects testing reports.

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The very presence of DTC genetic testing offered on the Internet might increase a determinist view that there is a “gene for” complex disease risks or behavioral traits just at a time when genome science is becoming most aware of the delicate intricacy of gene-gene and gene-environment communications in any health or disease upshot.
In short, genetic testing has moved with astounding speed in the past half century from the vague province of a medical specialty dealing with highly rare conditions to center place in medicine genetic testing has a long way. To conclude, the objective of genetics has so far outstripped real benefit, while fears about societal risk has also possibly outstripped real harms. Whether or not the consideration and financial venture in genetics will bear fruit is an open question to ponder on.

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