When it comes to DNA research, many people may only be aware of what is readily available in popular media outlets. However, you don’t need to be a geneticist to appreciate the strides in this field of study over recent years. Consider the possibilities when products like paternity or ancestry tests are becoming more accessible and mainstream. The study of DNA continues to have even more breakthroughs that are paving the way and tapping into new ways to unlock the information contained in these microscopic samples.
Tracking Individual Cell Growth
Thanks to major advancements in technology, scientists have discovered how DNA affects individual cells. This breakthrough means growth can be tracked at the most basic level. By eventually being able to map the progression of healing, aging, and disease on a cellular level, scientists can have an even deeper understanding that can be invaluable in finding both preventions and cures.
Faster DNA Sequencing
While DNA sequencing has been around for decades, innovation in techniques has made it faster and therefore more practical and accessible. Consider Next Generation Sequencing, for example, which enables researchers to decode DNA in a matter of days versus the years it takes for comparable techniques. This dramatic progress translates to the ability to conduct in-depth research faster and more efficiently. Some areas of study that can greatly benefit from this technology include the following:
- Genetic health
- Reproductive health
- Genomes of pathogens
- Genetic mutations linked to cancer
- Rare variations and mutations found in DNA
- Drug sensitivities
When disease epidemics spread throughout a country, understanding their root cause and how to prevent them can be invaluable to the population. By collecting and studying hundreds of thousands of donated DNA samples, scientists are learning more than ever about the onset of some of the most common diseases based on the DNA’s genetic variants. These diseases include the following:
- Breast cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Atrial fibrillation
- Coronary artery disease
With further research, it is believed scientists will be able to identify those prone to these diseases even before symptoms are ever presented, perhaps even as early as birth. Armed with that information, vulnerable individuals can start preventative measures as early as possible.
Traditional medicine has relied heavily on treating symptoms of diseases after they become physically noticeable, but extensive DNA research may change all that. While diseases are typically treated with medicine, holistic therapy, and surgical procedures, scientists have already shown signs of success with treating the root cause with gene therapy. Instead of simply alleviating the outward symptoms, this type of therapy can be used to correct the issue at the genetic level. Gene therapy has already made great progress, most notably in areas such as hemophilia, retinal diseases, skin restoration, sickle-cell disease, and cancer.
Even just a handful of accomplishments in the field of genetics in the last decade alone have made a dramatic impact on the future of medicine, with few signs of slowing down. With an ever-growing body of scientific knowledge, only time will tell what new discoveries will be made with each passing year. As research presses on, the possibilities are virtually endless.