Medical and Legal Uses for Genetic Testing

DNA testing for genealogy and personal interest reasons has become mainstream, and many kits are available with varying degrees of accuracy. As more people are tested, the results are compiled and become more reliable. While this kind of genetic testing is entertaining and informative, DNA evaluation also has a more important role. Many medical processes and tests rely on genetic information, and as more studies are done and additional genes are mapped and studied, more tests become available.

Predicting Medication Reactions

Predictive mediation testing can be used to check patients for genes that may change how they react to drugs. Genetic testing for antidepressants and other medications can save lives or cause better outcomes. Some people don’t react to drugs or react less than other people. This can happen if they have specific genes that cause their bodies to have more of certain enzymes than other people. These enzymes react to and metabolize the medication too quickly, causing it to be ineffective. In other people, too little of the necessary enzyme may be present, causing the opposite effect. In this case, the drug may linger longer than it should, causing them to be overmedicated.

Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic testing is used to help determine what disease or condition may be causing a patient’s symptoms. Diagnostic testing can be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis or help rule out a diagnosis when there are several similar conditions being considered. It can also be used to help find answers when there is an unknown problem.

Predictive Testing

Predictive testing is used to check for mutations that are not symptomatic. This is often done to screen family members of someone with a known genetic condition. The testing can show if a patient may develop diseases later in life. In some cases, diseases are more treatable if caught early, before symptoms begin. Predictive testing can also establish genetic predisposition towards certain types of cancer and other diseases, which can help guide a patient’s lifestyle choices.

Carrier Screening

The goal of carrier testing is to determine if a person has a gene they could pass on to their offspring. Usually, both partners are tested, which gives a clearer picture of the likelihood of the trait being carried on. This, along with genetic counseling, can help them decide if they can ethically have biological children. It is usually offered to people whose family members are known to have a genetic condition.

Prenatal Screening

Prenatal testing is used to help screen unborn babies to determine if they have genetic anomalies that could cause problems after birth. The test is usually used to look for chromosomal defects or missing/extra chromosomes such as Down syndrome. It is not conclusive and does not guarantee a healthy baby, but it can help healthcare providers and parents make decisions on how to proceed and be prepared for difficulties at birth.

Newborn Screening

Newborn screening of some form or another is required legally in all 50 states. The screening takes a small blood sample and checks for a number of different conditions and diseases. What screenings are done depends on the state, but the U.S. Health Services and Resource Administration recommends testing for 35 conditions.

Transplantation Testing

Transplantation testing is done to evaluate if organs or tissue is an ideal match for the recipient. DNA testing of both the donor and the recipient helps verify that the patient’s body will not reject the organ or tissue and is done in addition to basic testing. Basic testing involves mixing white blood cells from the donor and the recipient to see if there is an immune reaction.

Predicting Cancer Treatment

DNA testing can be used to guide and predict the best choices in cancer treatments. Genetic testing can be used to help determine the mutations of cancer and this in turn helps guide treatment choices. Some cancer mutations respond better to certain therapies than others, so using genetic information as a guide can help to save valuable time that could be wasted in trialing different treatments.

Forensic Testing

Forensic testing is used to identify people. If there is a sufficient DNA sample from evidence, it can be used to match a suspect and place them at the scene. It can also be used to identify victims of crimes, victims of disasters, and found bodies.

Paternity Testing

DNA testing can also be used to determine parentage in legal cases involving children. This is usually done in cases where a mother doesn’t know who her child’s father is. It can also be used to disprove paternity in child support cases or to facilitate termination of parental rights in the case of the wrong parent being listed on the birth certificate.


Genetic testing can be an important medical procedure that helps guide professionals to use better and more effective medications and procedures. DNA testing is a very mild and noninvasive treatment option that can take the place of other, more dangerous tests. It can also guide professionals in choosing the best possible treatment options, saving time and money, and minimizing risk to the patient.