What is the Difference Between DNA Profiling and Genetic Screening

The key difference between DNA profiling and genetic screening is that DNA profiling is the process of determining the DNA characteristics of an individual, whereas genetic screening is the process of testing a population for a genetic disease.

Gene tests study DNA sequences to identify variations in genes that cause or increase the risk of genetic disorders. DNA tests also help to identify a particular individual. Gene tests analyze an individual’s nucleotide sequence, genes, or DNA, which is known as the genome. DNA profiling, also known as DNA fingerprinting, analyzes the specific DNA pattern of an individual. Genetic screening tests a population for a particular genetic disease.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is DNA Profiling 
3. What is Genetic Screening
4. Similarities – DNA Profiling vs Genetic Screening
5. DNA Profiling vs Genetic Screening in Tabular Form
6. Summary – DNA Profiling vs Genetic Screening

What is DNA Profiling?

DNA profiling is a process where a specific DNA pattern is analyzed in an individual by taking a sample of tissue. It is a forensic technique to determine the DNA characteristics of an individual. DNA profiling also aids in paternity testing, genealogical and medical research, and in establishing immigration eligibility.

There are several techniques in DNA profiling processes. They are DNA extraction, restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, short tandem repeats (STR) analysis, Y-chromosome analysis, and mitochondrial analysis. DNA extraction is where DNA is extracted using a blood or saliva sample and purified. Here, the cell and nuclear membranes should be broken down to allow DNA to be free in solution. DNA remains in the sample once the solution is discarded or removed in this process. RFFLP analysis exploits variations in homologous DNA sequences, which are known as polymorphisms. They distinguish individuals or species or locate the genes within a DNA sequence.

Figure 01:  RFLP Analysis in DNA Profiling

PCR analysis helps to make a number of copies of a specific DNA sample, which allows a small DNA sample to amplify to a larger sequence to study in detail. STR are regions of non-coding DNA that contain repeats of the same nucleotide sequence. They are found at different places or genetic loci of a person’s DNA. These genetic loci are usually different on chromosomes. Therefore, it helps to identify particular DNA samples from person to person. The Y-chromosome analysis provides information about the genetic history of the male population. The mitochondrial analysis is where mitochondrial DNA aids in determining the genetic information of a particular person.

What is Genetic Screening?

Genetic screening is the process of testing a population for a genetic disease in order to determine a group of people who have the disease or the potential to carry it further to the offspring. It is a type of genetic testing that helps to identify changes in genetic material such as chromosomes, genes, or proteins. Some genes become altered to increase the risk of developing certain diseases. Genetic screening helps to identify these gene alterations in an individual to determine any risk and provide preventive measures and treatment.

Figure 02: Genetic Screening Process

Genetic screening is of two types, and they are carrier screening and prenatal screening. Carrier screening usually spots gene alterations related to a limited number of disorders and diseases. Common diseases that use carrier screening to detect them are cystic fibrosis, fragile X syndrome, sickle cell anaemia, and Tay-Sachs’s disease. Prenatal genetic screening is not completely accurate; however, the rate of accuracy depends on test to test. These screening tests involve blood tests, ultrasounds, and DNA testing and are usually conducted during the first or second trimester of pregnancy. Downs’ syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and brain or neural tube defects are a few diseases that prenatal genetic screening detects.

What are the Similarities Between DNA profiling and Genetic Screening?

  • Gene, chromosomal and protein tests are involved in DNA profiling and genetic screening.
  • Both processes require samples such as blood, skin, hair, bone, and nails from an individual.
  • They involve multiple molecular biological techniques.

What is the Difference Between DNA Profiling and Genetic Screening?

DNA profiling is the process of determining the DNA characteristics of an individual, while genetic screening is the process of testing a population for a genetic disease. Thus, this is the key difference between DNA profiling and genetic screening. Moreover, DNA profiling determines DNA characteristics using a sample of an individual, while in genetic screening, the characteristics of DNA of a population are analyzed.

The below infographic presents the differences between DNA profiling and genetic screening in tabular form for side by side comparison.

Summary – DNA Profiling vs Genetic Screening

DNA profiling and genetic screening are two molecular techniques. DNA profiling is the process of determining the DNA characteristics of an individual in order to analyze the unique DNA pattern of the person. In contrast, genetic screening is the process of testing a population for a genetic disease. DNA profiling is mainly a forensic technique used to confirm the criminals on forensic studies. Genetic screening is used to determine a group of people who have the disease or the potential to carry it further to the offspring. So, this summarizes the difference between DNA profiling and genetic screening.