In 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA, the biological material that transmits genetic information. Decades later, entrepreneurs like Jim Plante concentrate on genetic testing to help people learn more about their health, risks for disease, and other hereditary characteristics. The information empowers people to take action to prevent illness or delay it as long as possible. Knowledge of genetics gives people the chance to live longer, healthier and more rewarding lives.
Some genetic mutations indicate that the person is at greater risk for certain illnesses, which is the case for some types of cancer and dementia. Other mutations verify that the individual will definitely develop the disorder if he or she lives long enough. Huntington’s disease is a case in point. A person who learns that he or she will develop Huntington’s disease cannot delay or prevent the onset, but the awareness allows this individual to make some definitive plans for life in the meantime.
Research has found that when people discover they have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease or other illnesses that are largely preventable, they are more likely to make significant changes to their diet and to start an exercise regimen. They might, for example, reduce their intake of red meat and saturated fat while boosting their intake of vegetables. They might start a combination exercise program with both aerobic and resistance training elements. That might include running and biking as well as lifting weights.
Improving Health and Well-Being
Executives of companies like Pathway Genomics, founded by Mr. Plante, are optimistic that providing certain types of results to consumers will boost health and well-being globally. Individuals still cannot order direct-to-consumer testing for Huntington’s and other serious diseases because they should receive support and counseling. Many other types of tests are available, however. Some are offered for curiosity’s sake, to a certain extent, while others can have a very practical impact.
Pathway Genomics has chosen not to offer direct-to-consumer testing for various reasons, but the company is in the forefront of helping medical practitioners and their patients gain important knowledge that can improve the future.