by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted June 14, 2007 in DNA Testing, Personalities with DNA
In mid-April, deCODE diagnostics and DNA Direct* began offering the deCODE T2 genetic test for predicting a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes. The deCODE T2 DNA test examines the presence of the â€œTâ€ allele of SNP rs7903146, which is located within the transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) gene. This week, I interviewed cardiac nurse Kendra James of Diabetes Notes and A Hearty Life about her experience with the deCODE T2 genetic test and although she had already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it was still an interesting experience for her.
Hsien Lei: When you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, did you ever consider it had something to do with your DNA or looked back on your family history?
Kendra James: Being a nurse, I know that there is always that familial component to diabetes. My mother has type 2 diabetes. Although I would really classify hers as pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance syndrome. Funny thing is… I can’t think of one other family member in past or present that has been diagnosed with diabetes.
HL: What were some of the concerns you had about taking the deCODE T2 diabetes test?
KJ: I was primarily concerned that if “those” genes were present in my DNA, there would be an increased risk factor for my 3 daughters. Would there be some form of guilt? Possibly.
HL: Have you ever had a genetic test done before (including prenatal testing)? If so, how did you experience with the deCODE test differ from your previous one? If not, would you consider other genetic tests now that you’ve done one?
KJ: No, I have never had any genetic testing before this experience. I would absolutely consider doing more testing if necessary. It was easy and painless. I was fortunate though that I did not have to pay for my test, which is regularly $500.
HL: How has finding out that you tested negative changed the way you think about having diabetes?
KJ: Really… none. The test itself shows if you carry the genes that put you more at risk for developing diabetes. And if I read correctly, that is only less than a quarter of diabetics, right? Although it does make me more curious to know if in the near future there will be a way to conclusively determine if you will develop diabetes. I will leave that up to you geneticists!
HL: If you had tested positive, would it have given you peace of mind knowing that part of your risk could be explained by genetics? That perhaps it wasn’t completely within your control?
KJ: No. And I really don’t believe that it is all in my control. Yes you can eat a nutritious diet, stay slim and trim, exercise every darn day of your life, but if the cards hold something different for you, then they do. Personally I have been an athlete my whole life, am a mover and a shaker, eat a fairly low carb, balanced diet, but my sugars still soar into the 350’s some days. Who knows? Maybe my pancreas is playing a joke on me! Haha. In any event, I think that people understand what the test is offering in it’s entirety. Not that it will confirm whether or not you will develop diabetes, but whether you carry that risk on your ol’ double helix!
HL: Would you consider having your three daughters tested for the TCF7L2 gene variant or for any other genes? Would you recommend genetic testing to other family members?
KJ: I would. Knowledge is power. I feel like if you know the probability of a diagnosis then you can do more to combat it, not escape it, but prepare for it. It is a scary thought though… know your future before it happens. Would it make some live life differently? I suppose. We could really get into a real ethical debate, yeah?
Thank you, Kendra, for taking the time to tell us more about your personal experience with direct-to-consumer genetic testing. For anyone who’s interested, DNA Direct is currently offering a $25 honorarium for anyone who takes a diabetes survey.
*I am a consultant for DNA Direct.
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