All living things must die at some point. In our bodies, our cells are constantly dying and reproducing themselves. As they do this, they are releasing DNA fragments into our body. As specific diseases cause our bodies to break down, there is now evidence that circulating DNA appears in the body. Scientists are now using this to help pinpoint when a disease forms and to better monitor progression. This can help to combat different types of silent cancer and devastating brain diseases.
While it can do plenty for people, circulating DNA is still in its infancy. While doctors can use it to help analyze a woman’s blood to test infants for conditions like down syndromes, there are no specific tests in place for other conditions like the early warning signs of cancer.
In a test that was performed on patients who were recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, researchers found large numbers of dying β cells. These cells are insulin producing cells from the pancreas. These cells also appeared to die when islet cell transplants were done, which were an early warning of immune rejection of these cells.
That doesn’t mean that not having these circulating DNA cells means a person could potentially be fine.
It is believed that only 70% of patients will be able to use certain tests, like those designed to detect pancreatitis.
As research continues to advance and new testing becomes available, this form of testing circulating DNA should become as effective as other forms of DNA testing.