Cytogenetic technologists are laboratory specialists who study normal and abnormal chromosomes in cells, and their relationship to disease and human development. These include birth defects, fertility problems and blood disorders.
They examine the chromosomes in blood, amniotic fluid, bone marrow, tumours and placentas, using slide preparations and tissue cultures. Cytogenetic technologists use karyotyping and fluorescent-labelled DNA to detect gene and chromosome abnormalities. (A karyotype is a chart of stained chromosomes arranged in order of size that physicians use to compare and look at the differences in normal and abnormal chromosomes.)
They select and prepare specimens and grow the tissue in an appropriate culture medium for the cells’ nutritional requirements, using aseptic techniques. Cells are harvested using substances such as mitotic arrestants, cell releasing agents and cell fixatives. Slides are prepared and stained to make the chromosomes visible for microscopy, and banding methods selected to permit identification of chromosome pairs. The material will then be viewed using light microscopes, photomicroscopes or other medical imaging tools, so that any structural abnormalities can be identified. Chromosome images are created using computer imaging systems. They need to recognise and report abnormalities in the colour, size, shape, composition or pattern of the cells. The test results are summarised and the report submitted to the appropriate authorities.
As part of the daily requirements for the job, the cytogenetic technologist must know how to harvest and culture living cells, understand chromosomal morphology, chromosomal analysis, and be familiar with the more than 20 different methods for visualising chromosomes. They must keep meticulous records in order to communicate effectively with physicians and family members, as well as researchers who request technical information or test results.
Cytogenetic technologists also need to develop and implement training programmes for trainees, medical students and resident physicians and feed details of the specimens into logs or computer systems. They must also maintain laboratory equipment such as photomicroscopes, inverted microscopes and standard darkroom equipment, as well as supervise subordinate laboratory staff.
Continued population growth and advances in medical technology are factors that increase the need for cytogenetic technologists, so that the demand for occupations in this field is expected to increase rapidly.
Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences, Chuka University, DDT School of Medicine, Deborah Retief Memorial School of Nursing/Institute of Health Sciences/ Kanye Seventh Day Adventist College of Nursing, Embu University College, Karatina University, Kenya Methodist University, Kenyatta University, Kisii University, Maasai Mara University, Machakos University College, Maseno University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Meru University of Science and Technology, Mount Kenya University, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Pwani University College, University of Botswana, University of Eastern Africa Baraton, University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch