Genetic Testing: The Roadmap for a Better, Healthier You

To celebrate National Family Health History Day, HiDoc Pulse invites Imagene Labs, a personalised health and wellness company, to share how genetic testing can enhance personal health and wellness.

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National Family Health History Day is an annual event that’s celebrated every November 28. To mark the day, family members are encouraged to gather and discuss their shared health history, with a focus on assessing the health risks for known illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.

However, the family health history can feel like an impossible puzzle to solve. That’s where Imagene Labs comes in to guide families out of the labyrinth that is their own genetic code. Headquartered in Singapore with offices across Asia, it offers consumers a wide range of DNA Tests and personalised diets, beauty and health solutions, as well as customised skincare and nutrition formulations.

What does genetic testing involve?

Are you afraid of needles? You’re not alone. And if horrific images of needles flood your mind when you think of genetic testing, fret not! In the case of an OriCARE genetic test, a saliva sample is collected from you using a convenient spit tube — meaning no needles, no blood, and no pain! OriCARE is a DNA test exclusively curated for HiDoc patients, and only available on the HiDoc platform. This sample is then processed at Imagene Labs’ laboratory in Singapore, which is licensed by Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) and clinically certified by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

DNA is extracted from your saliva sample and screened at specific locations along their genetic sequence for variations known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced “snips”). The SNPs used in an OriCARE genetic test have been found — through robust genome-wide studies and clinical trials — to influence people’s health conditions as well as their response to drugs and vitamins. Many of these SNPs have also been chosen because they are more likely to occur in and impact Asian populations, which can lead to better targeted outcomes.

The turn-around time to receive results? From the time your sample reaches the laboratory, it only takes about two weeks for you to receive a comprehensive report detailing your genetic tendencies and recommendations personalised to these tendencies. These reports can be tapped on to facilitate more precise consultations when patients consult with HiDoc-affiliated healthcare providers.

Feeling apprehensive about the confidentiality of your health history? You can banish these fears right away. Both HiDoc and Imagene Labs are based in Singapore, which means all patient data and records are compliant with Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

What’s the difference between DNA genetic testing and ancestral genetic test?

Ancestral genetic tests show genetic genealogy and provide clues about where a person’s ancestors might have come from based on their ethnic background (e.g. 50% Asian, 25% European, 15% African). While interesting, such genealogic information may lack practical ‘every day’ usability without more context.

A DNA test like OriCARE may not break down your ancestral ethnicity, but it does provide practical information like your inherent tendencies for certain conditions, and how to best manage them by tailoring your lifestyle.

What useful information can genetic testing provide me?

A genetic test like OriCARE provides a detailed summary of your genetic tendencies for 15 traits, namely:

  1. Healthy Ageing
  2. Longevity
  3. Telomere Length
  4. Cognitive Decline
  5. Declarative Memory Decline
  6. Information Processing Speed Decline 
  7. Macular Degeneration
  8. Cataracts
  9. Glaucoma
  10. Hearing Loss
  11. Bone Density Loss
  12. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver
  13. Difficulty In Losing Weight
  14. Slow Metabolism
  15. Glucose Balance

Your OriCARE report will also comprehensively explain the significance of each trait, your personal likelihood for its associated conditions, as well as provide actionable lifestyle recommendations to help you manage your predispositions. For example, if you have a high genetic predisposition for glaucoma, your OriCARE recommendations can include limiting caffeine consumption to reduce eye pressure and halt damage to your optic nerves.

Knowing your genetic tendencies helps you chart what might lie ahead, so you can take action now to offset or leverage on your genetic influences for your betterment.

How can I best use the information provided to me by genetic testing?

As your DNA makes you unique and plays an important role in how your body works, knowing your genetic tendencies helps confirm certain traits you might have suspected about yourself as well as discover new ones. With the genetic insights from OriCARE, you save time, money and effort by cutting out trial and error in figuring out the best choices to make for yourself. No longer does it need to be a stab in the dark to achieve wellness. Imagene Labs can help tailor your lifestyle by giving recommendations on the kinds and amounts of certain foods to eat, the frequency and intensity of physical activities, and even the kinds of supplements to consume.

How do I know which genetic test is best for me?

Your personal needs and preferences are the primary considerations when choosing which genetic test to get. In the case of OriCARE, it gives you insights into 15 traits relating to your health and longevity, a comprehensive report detailing your genetic tendencies, and easily actionable lifestyle recommendations personalised to your unique DNA profile.

It is also important to factcheck the accreditations of the genetic test provider. Imagene Labs’ genetic testing facility is the only one of its kind to be licensed by MOH, clinically certified by CAP, and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to be inducted into the Illumina® PropelTM Certification Program.

Cost is yet another factor to consider. An OriCARE DNA test starts from an affordable $165 via the HiDoc platform.

How would genetic testing benefit me if I’m already undergoing regular physical and lab tests?

Genetic testing complements the physical and laboratory tests you’re already taking. By knowing your genetic tendencies, you can adjust your physical activity and diet to manage your potential risks as well as build on other lifestyle choices you’ve already made.

It is also important to bear in mind that physical and laboratory tests only reflect your current state, which fluctuates according to a myriad of external and extenuating factors. Since your DNA does not change throughout your lifetime, the results of a genetic test like OriCARE provides you with a constant and reliable baseline to make informed decisions on improving wellness.

What are the risks and limitations of genetic testing?

It is important to note that a DNA test like OriCARE is not intended to be a diagnosis. Your traits are influenced by three factors: your genetics (nature), your upbringing (nurture), and your current lifestyle (choices). As such, genetics are not the only determinant for one’s health condition. DNA tests like OriCARE only tell you your statistical likelihood for a particular set of traits.

While the recommendations in your OriCARE report are personalised to your genetic tendencies, they are also not intended to be treatment plans for diseases or act as substitutes for professional medical advice. Genetic testing complements the services of healthcare providers, not replace them.

What do I need to prepare before coming in for genetic testing?

Nothing much actually! As OriCARE uses a convenient, non-invasive saliva sample method, you don’t even have to gather up your courage to face the needle.

You can do an OriCARE test at virtually any time of the day, at your convenience. The only thing you have to do is to not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush your teeth or gargle your mouth 30 minutes before providing your saliva sample. These restrictions are in place to ensure that the saliva sample attains as much cheek cells as possible, which allows the lab to extract sufficient DNA for analysis.

NB. If you ever experience increasingly severe signs and symptoms of health issues, consult with a HiDoc specialist immediately or reach out to the HiDoc care team at enquiry@hidoc.sg. Use the HiDoc app to order a OriCARE genetic test for a comprehensive DNA report, and book a follow-up teleconsultation for a specialist review — all on your mobile device. Sign up to HiDoc Pulse to stay in touch with health information that empowers, strengthens and inspires.

Medical Disclaimer: Content on HiDoc Pulse, including text, images, audio, or any other formats not specified here, is provided only for general informational purposes and not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use information found on HiDoc Pulse for diagnosing or treating medical or health conditions of any kind. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem or condition that needs to be addressed, please contact your professional healthcare provider.

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