XING's Professor Matt Trau and Paul Mainwaring have helped develop a test to reveal your risk of diseases. Picture: Peter Wallis
XING's Professor Matt Trau and Paul Mainwaring have helped develop a test to reveal your risk of diseases. Picture: Peter Wallis

DIY genetic testing is here now — with a catch

QUEENSLAND scientists have developed a test that reveals your risk of diseases including cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's, in a major breakthrough expected to be available to patients as early as next year.

The rapid test would even be able to show patients how a month at the gym, a better diet or laying off the booze can change their genetic makeup by switching off illness-causing genes and switching on the good ones.

The test, dubbed a "laboratory in a drop", uses urine, sputum or blood to screen for genes known to cause diseases, and could be available as early as next year, with the scientists hoping to make it affordable so that one day it could be sold in pharmacies.

Oncologist and chief medical officer at XING Technologies - a spin-off from the University of Queensland - Paul Mainwaring said the test had the potential to both change and save Australian lives.

"Imagine if your mum got breast cancer and you wanted to know what your breast cancer risk was," he said.

"Now most people are familiar with the BRCA1 gene, but there are other genes that may increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

"There are other genes that can increase your risk of heart attack

"We could be able to tell you you don't have a risk for Alzheimer's or heart attack, but you do have a high risk of developing diabetes."

Chief scientific officer and UQ professor Matt Trau said while the technology was ready to be used at home, it was hard to say when it might be available in pharmacies.

"We're living in a time where the technology is moving so quickly it's literally at the stage where it can be placed in the hands of anyone, but the main issue is a regulatory issue," he said.

"It's a question of when it would be appropriate with respect to the regulatory requirements, and we need to take those steps very carefully."

He said the test was different to how people usually think of DNA testing in that it's a monitoring technology rather than telling you where you came from.

The Sinnamon Park company recently signed a memorandum of understanding with BGI - headquartered in China - to deliver its cutting-edge technology in the field of personalised healthcare.

It plans to establish global manufacturing of the system in Brisbane.

"This is Australian research, funded by Australian tax payers that's actually going to change Australian lives," Dr Mainwaring said.

In addition to revolutionising the field of personal medicine Dr Mainwaring said the technology could be invaluable for poor countries that don't have access to scientists, hospitals and labs.

"You could do the tests right there and then," he said.

Dr Mainwaring said with the system using XING's "laboratory-in-a-drop" technology it could potentially be used to accurately, rapidly, and inexpensively screen and monitor diseases in different applications, including human health, veterinary, agriculture, aquaculture and food safety.



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