How is Singapore involved in Genetic Testing?

In Singapore, genetic testing is used for many different purposes. Among them are genetic testing to know your genetic risk for certain health conditions and cultivating farmed animals and plants that are more resilient to adapting to their environment. All of these research leads to a healthier Singapore.

Singapore breakthroughs in genetics

    Helping identify mystery illnesses

    Rare diseases are often very tricky to diagnose. KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) doctors experienced this dificulty in diagnosing some of their patients. To overcome this, they turned to genetics. The genetics team at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) are continuously developing tests that help to provide faster diagnosis for their patients that have rare diseases. Source

    Sequencing viruses, finding intervention

    Scientists in Singapore discovered two new types of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), which is a virus that is associated with certain types of cancers. In this breakthrough, the scientists sequenced the DNA of the viral genomes of the EBV virus and managed to discover a new strain. This new strain is associated with increased risk of Cantonese cancer. This then makes it easier to identify people who are more at risk of Cantonese cancer, which then makes early intervention easier.

    Creating more resilient crops

    To create crops that can adapt to our changing living environment, scientists from Singapore invented a novel way to transform the genes of crops quickly. This enables the scientists to cultivate crops with desirable traits, such as being resistant to diseases, ability to grow indoors (lower light environment), and many more in a faster way. This is done by inserting the plants leaves with nanotubes that enable scientists to insert DNA into the plant with better accuracy. With faster cultivation of more resilient crops, farming in cities like Singapore where space is scarce will be more efficient.

DNA fun facts

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Durian DNA

In 2017, Professor Teh Bin Tean, Deputy Director of the National Cancer Centre in Singapore embarked on a mission to map out the complete genetic blueprint of durian. His team discovered that durian possessed 46,000 genes, twice that of humans! His team also discovered that a class of genes called MLGs (methionine gamma lyases) are responsible for the fruit's distinctive aroma.

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Disease Defense

Laboratories and clinics in Singapore are taking part in a global initiative to create a DNA database of microorganisms. This database is a critical component in the fight against foodborne diseases as this enables scientists to quickly identify any microorganism that could be the cause of food poisoning outbreaks. This in turn will make containing and managing foodborne diseases easier and faster.

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Special Treatment

Just this year, the Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) approved a late-stage breast cancer drug that specifically treats breast cancer patients that have a rare mutation of their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The drug, believed to be more effective and less toxic as compared to chemotherapy, targets cancer cells with mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

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