Personal Genomics

Personal Genomics

I’ve been reading more about some of these web-based personal genomics
services. Firms like 23andMe and Navigenics that are offering personal genome services. Using their home testing kit, you send in a salvia sample and get back “the secrets of your own DNA”.

For $999.00, 23andMe (which, by the way, is funded by Google and
Genentech) promises to provide information in your personalized “Gene
Journal” on a long list of diseases/conditions such as lupus, MS,
obesity, cancer, diabetes, chrohn’s disease, macular degeneration, and
earwax type (!).

They offer a suite of “ancestry tools” on their web site that “let you
find out where and how your ancestors lived”. Apparently, you can
compare your genome to thousands of others around the world and find
out which people are more similar to you. They also lay claim to
“helping you discover how your genes may affect such things as your
athletic ability.”

Navigenics takes a slightly different approach (and charges more),
giving you only some of the genetic information (that which they
determine to be “medically relevant”) and then they set you up with a
paid membership arrangement where they continue to test your genome
against new research and offer you future opportunities to meet with
their genetic counselors to interpret it.

To my ear, it sounds like these services are playing into some pretty
grave misconceptions about genetics and inheritance. There are so
many factors involved between a print out of your genomic data and the
onset of disease – couldn’t this sort of testing lead to black and
white thinking about our health? And I wonder if the FDA or an
appropriate federal regulating body is examining these firms and what
they’re promising? I’m curious to hear what you all think about these
companies and the products they are selling? Do your students ask you
about this?


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Filed under Interesting Science, web resources

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