Have you been sitting on the side lines of genetic testing wondering whether you should do it or not? You’re not alone. For some, not knowing their genetic risks was better because there wasn’t much that could be done with the information. That’s changing. Now physicians are starting to integrate the genetic tests into clinical care for several diseases including cancer.
There are different types of genetic tests. Some are diagnostic, others are predictive and others are used for preliminarily screening. There are also genetic tests used to select and tailor the dosage of some drugs to your genetic makeup. If you’re curious, there is a genetic test registry that provides details about the available tests including the test’s purpose, methodology, validity, evidence of the test’s usefulness, laboratory contacts and credentials. There is also a consumer marketplace of genetic tests for you to explore. Unless you have a specific concern or interest, check with your physician. They can help narrow the field of tests to those most meaningful to your health risks.
We spoke with Peter Gerbino MD to get some insight on how genetics are being used by physicians in clinical practice now and what the future might hold for sports and sports medicine.
1/ Are consumer genetic test currently providing physicians any meaningful data to help patients?
Yes. We can identify those at risk for certain types of breast or colon cancer by genetic testing. As we learn more about which genes do what, we will be able to advise patients about various strengths and weaknesses that they have genetically.
2/ Are patients engaging you in discussions about their genetics?
Not very much. Most realize that they are the product of their parents and accept the good and bad that comes with those genes. Few patients are asking about how to change those genes.
3/ Are genetics considered in how you treat a patient now? Or will genetics play a role in the near future
Now genetics play a role in that we treat those with genetic hyperlaxity differently than others. Likewise, others with genetic diseases get specialized care. In the future we may be treating each genetic quality with a specially tailored intervention.
4/ Are athletes starting to using genetics to better tailor their training programs?
All athletes tailor their training based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. Those characteristics are genetic to a large extent. So, yes, genetics are involved in training decisions. The real question is whether athletes are using genetics, specifically gene doping, to improve their potential. There is great concern in the sports medicine community that gene doping is already being used and that CRISPR gene editing will be used to enhance athletic abilities.
5/ What do you think are the most meaningful insights that could be used to tailor a fitness program?
Training and conditioning professionals identify areas that need extra work or are genetically superior in a given athlete. This will be improved with advanced genetic testing in the future. How far this goes is anybody’s guess. The ethical question is whether the “perfect” genetic athlete can be designed and created.
6/ Is there a strong link between genetics and risk of obesity?