DNA and the Role of Medical Lab Technicians

HealthcareApril 08, 2021

April 25 is National DNA Day - Are you one of the 15 percent of Americans who has done a mail-in DNA test? Just a decade or two ago, scientists didn’t know the amount of information that could be unlocked by studying DNA profiles. Today, simple mail-in tests can provide people with insights about their heritage and medical predispositions as well as connections to relatives. And, using new technology, old DNA samples can hold the key to solving cold case crimes.

The study of DNA is a relatively new science. Formally known as Deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA is a complex molecule that contains all the information necessary to build and maintain an organism. All living things have DNA within their cells. Its double helical structure was discovered in the 1950s and in the 1970s, the sequencing process that unlocks genetic information contained in DNA was developed. These breakthroughs lead to the field of genomics. Modern DNA science got its official start in the 1980s with the Human Genome Project, an international scientific research project that mapped all the genes in the genome. 

DNA science gained major advancements with innovations in computer technology that allow scientists to study the whole genome instead of just a single gene. By analyzing a person’s genome and comparing it to their relatives, scientists could pinpoint differences and similarities in their genetic makeup that might make them more prone to certain diseases or conditions.

The Lab Technician’s Role

The person who analyzes DNA is lab technician. DNA is often collected from a swab inside a person’s cheek. This is the most common form of collection for mail-in tests from willing participants. Since DNA is present in virtually every cell, it can also be retrieved from blood, hair, and other body fluids. 

The lab technician uses a process called gel electrophoresis, which isolates and maps strands of DNA. If the process is being done to aid in the solving of a crime, the DNA is checked against criminal databases to identify if came from a suspect at a crime scene. In some cases, the DNA information is added to state or national databases. 

If a Lab Technician decides to specialize in DNA, they can work for a variety of employers, including laboratories, police departments, and more. Some labs may focus on direct-to-consumer tests, while others may mainly work with law enforcement. Others may work in research.

If working in a lab processing DNA samples sounds like an exciting career to you, Fortis offers a medical lab technician program at campus locations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. To learn more, please visit our site. Or, call us today at (855) 436-7847 and speak to one of our career counselors.