Gene testing has already become a reality, and we are able, through genetics experts, to find out what conditions we may be susceptible to, based on our genetic makeup. 23andMe.com is an online service that, for $99, can analyse your DNA. In February, the US Food and Drug Administration authorised the marketing of 23andMe’s Bloom Syndrome carrier test, a direct-to-consumer genetic test that can help to determine whether a healthy person has a variant in a gene that could lead to their offspring inheriting a serious disorder. However, while these genetics tests can provide information so that preventive measures can be taken, the concern is that society as a whole is not ready for this knowledge yet. Locally, DNAlysis Biotechnology can give you insight into your health, diet and fitness. Dr Sly Nedic, an integrative and anti-aging specialist, and founder of 8th Sense, explains that there are two types of genetic testing techniques: predictive and preventive. Predictive genetic testing is used to detect mutations that are associated with disorders that appear after birth or later in life. These tests help to identify mutations that can increase your risk of developing disorders based on your genetic makeup, such as in the case of certain types of cancer. Preventive genetic testing, says Nedic, is used to identify certain gene mutations (single nucleotide polymorphism or SNPs) that are expressed in an unfavourable lifestyle environment. “SNP intervention is used to successfully treat gene mutation with lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, and vitamin and mineral supplementation,” says Nedic. She adds: “Modern genomics is based on personalised prevention Although usually used to stop the development of age-related degenerative diseases, prevention is recommended for young and old, and it is never too early to start.” Nedic says the current genetic tests available include: sporadic breast cancer and colon cancer, risk assessment for prostate cancer, risk assessment for heart attack, risk assessment for female hormone replacement, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, diabetes Type-2 and obesity, detoxification capacity and oxidative stress, lipid metabolism, risk assessment for osteoporosis, androgenic alopecia (male hair loss), skin health and dental health, nicotine addiction gene, wellbeing test (testing 90 genes), Crohn’s disease and autism gene.
3D printing has gone from plastic and metal components to genetic material. In 2012, a 3D printer-created lower jaw was created for an 83-year-old woman. The transplant, which was carried out in the Netherlands, used an implant made of titanium powder that was heated and fused by a laser, one layer at a time. The implant involved articulated joints, cavities to promote muscle attachment, and grooves to direct the regrowth of nerves and veins. This has been followed by bioprinting, the ability to generate functional three-dimensional human organs. This involves layering adult or embryonic stem cells (bioink) into the pattern needed, and controlling the cell aggregations, fusions and differentiations, until the desired living 3D structure is created. There have been a number of science literature reports of skin, bones, blood vessels and even ears being created in this manner. Last year, a group of researchers from 3D Bioprinting Solutions Laboratory, at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, outside Moscow, started working on a transplantready thyroid, with the hope of having a fully functional printed kidney by 2018. According to 3dprintingindustry.com, they have created a functional bioficial gland that is compatible for implantation in mice. While the gland is not suitable for human implantation just yet, they hope to be able to print a 3D functional thyroid for human implantation by the end of this year. The 3D bioprinting company developed its 3D bioprinter in early 2014, which allows for 3D tissue constructs made of “cellular spheres and bioinks for the cellular matrix”, by using several bioprinting processes. The future for this science, says Codrington, is extremely exciting. The idea is to reduce or negate the need for human transplant donors in the future as technology allows for “printing out” of these organs that are genetically similar, and therefore will not be rejected. “A 3D printer at home to print out the bits and pieces we need may sound like science fiction, but it is doable within the next two decades,” adds Codrington.