The health care industry has a new DNA standard for genetic testing thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These new reference materials help laboratories that perform DNA tests analyze samples against known sequences.
Laboratories reference to the DNA standard provided by the federal government to ascertain the accuracy of DNA tests. If a lab's work finds the correct markers within the genetic sequence being tested, the lab can tell patients that its test is a fairly accurate tool for matching for various genetic markers. The reference materials used by the lab therefore determine whether or not its equipment and software functions accurately.
The DNA standard was collected from a Utah woman of European ancestry. Companies receive samples of 10 micrograms of DNA from the Department of Commerce for $450. That amount of DNA provides plenty of source material to allow companies to perform several genetic tests.
The overall goal of the DNA standard is to help alleviate mistakes between laboratories that may show different results from tests. Variations in testing could lead to misdiagnoses, mistreatment or even no treatment for patients. Health insurance companies are more likely to pay for genetic tests with companies who follow the standard and which can prove they have consistent results.
DNA sequencing has advanced over the past decade, and many mainstream health care companies are now embracing genetic tests as part of their clients' health care packages. This is particularly the case in terms of emerging fields such as preventative oncology. A complete analysis of someone's genome costs approximately $5,000, but the new DNA standard aims to improve results and this could eventually bring costs down.
The standard works for the next-generation sequencing currently in use. Several high-tech health care companies specialize in performing such tests, and these laboratories provide results to health care providers. Startups can also utilize the standard with current tests and software to provide results faster and more effectively, and increased competition could lower prices even faster.
Genetic testing helps detect the risks of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and cystic fibrosis. Genetic sequencing even helps dietitians and nutritionists tailor diets based on their patients' genomic makeup. Sequencing someone's DNA helps assess the best types of food for the person to eat for optimum health. The relatively new field, known as nutrigenomics, can even help prevent diseases by responding to risks present within the person's unique DNA structure.
The DNA standard released by the federal government moves genetic testing and sequencing forward. As the science advances, individual patients may receive tailored treatments thanks to more accurate assessments. More companies can also benefit from the new standards as costs come down and the new industry grows.
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