Image of testing tube and double helix for article on DNA Testing
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Published On: July 4th, 2023Categories: Articles, DNA

Simply put, DNA testing looks for variants (or mutations) within the DNA. It is often referred to as genetic testing, but genetic testing to look for potential disease markers is not the only test type. Researchers can also use DNA in fields such as forensics and archaeology. Many advances in testing have been accomplished over the years, and today’s modern-day DNA testing laboratory is loaded with equipment to process test results as quickly as possible. Read on to learn more about DNA testing, its benefits, and its more modern breakthroughs.

Types of Different DNA Tests

DNA testing can be used in a variety of applications in fields such as:

  • Genetic testing
  • Forensics
  • Ancestry tracking
  • Medical tests
  • Hormones
  • Vaccines
  • Paternity tests

There are certainly other fields, but these are some of the most common when there is extracting DNA in the laboratory.

When it comes to genetic testing, there are various tests depending on what is being tested. Some of the more common types of genetic testing include:

  • Single gene testing. This test looks for variations in only one gene. This test is performed when there is a family history of genetic mutations or someone has symptoms of an inherited disease, such as sickle cell disease.
  • Panel testing. This looks for variations in several genes, performed in one test. Panel tests can look for reasons behind conditions such as low muscle tone or epilepsy but can also be used to detect the BRCA gene, a breast cancer marker.
  • Large-scale testing. There are two types of large-scale testing: exome and genome sequencing. Exome sequencing looks at all genes in the DNA, not just those related to medical conditions. Genome sequencing looks at a person’s complete DNA, not only the genes. Genome sequencing can be used for ancestry tests.

With genetic testing, there can be one of three results:

  • Positive – means there is a genetic change that may cause disease
  • Negative – means there are no known disease-causing genes
  • Uncertain – means there is a gene variant, but it is unknown or unclear whether it will lead to a disorder or condition.

What Are the Benefits of DNA Testing?

There are many benefits to DNA testing. For example, forensic scientists can collect DNA at the scene of a crime and match the extracted crime scene DNA to a database of known offenders to help solve crimes. Testing is also used to study the teeth and bones of ancient humans, so that we can know more about the history, ancestry and migration patterns of our earliest civilizations. There are also many benefits to genetic testing. For example, a person can collect a sample using a home DNA kit and a mail-in lab service to learn more about their ancestry or ancestors.

Patients can also make more informed decisions about their healthcare. If a woman knows she has the BRCA gene, for example, she can decide on the next steps to help prevent the development of breast cancer. Newborn screenings can let new mothers know about any possible complications with their newborns, and genetic testing can also be performed during pregnancy to screen for certain conditions.

What Are Breakthroughs in DNA Testing?

Decades ago, you’d hear of DNA testing regarding forensics and solving criminal cases. Since the early days of DNA replication and extraction, testing for forensics is much more exact and streamlined. This is in part due to DNA collection being common in some states for even minor crimes, creating huge local, state and national databases.

As of 2023, the David Reich Lab at Harvard is studying ancient humans with the most cutting-edge technology.

The Mayo Clinic conducted a study of 1,281 patients, discovering that 1 in 10 was at risk for a hereditary condition and now could get preventative care based on that knowledge. There are breakthroughs in every field of DNA.

Many breakthroughs in using DNA polymerases and DNA testing are because of the advances in DNA lab technology. To properly isolate, extract, and test DNA, your laboratory should have equipment to streamline the process. Some equipment you’d commonly find in a DNA laboratory include:

  • Thermocycler – used to cycle between upper and lower temperatures for denaturing and annealing
  • DNA analyzer – used to characterize extracted DNA
  • DNA isolation kits – extract high-quality plasmids from fungal and bacterial cell types
  • Polymerase chain reaction machines – help make copies of DNA segments
  • Pipettes and pipette tips
  • Lab shakers
  • Centrifuges 
  • Spectrophotometers
  • Vacuum concentrators 
  • pH, ion, conductivity, and oxygen measurement tools

Having up-to-date, functional equipment in your laboratory ensures that DNA testing is performed efficiently and accurately.

If your lab needs help getting started with DNA testing, contact Hudson Robotics for a free equipment consultation. With an automated laboratory, lab technicians have more time to focus on what really matters.