I have a tendency to be an early adopter of technology. Most of it I like to think, is useful and genetic testing is one of those technologies that requires knowledge, trust, and a dash of hope to adopt early on.
23andMe was founded in 2006 by Linda Avey, Anne Wojcicki, and Paul Cusenza. Anne Wojcicki is the only one of the 3 still with the company and though 23andMe is not an arm of Google, Anne is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and there was Google money in the initial investment that got 23andMe off the ground.
In 2007 the company started offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing and in 2008 I (with the help of Genome Alberta) laid down the 999.00 dollars it took back then to get the test. The idea was to use it and tests from Navigenics
, the Ancestry Project, and later the National Genographic Project, as an outreach tool and to help explain to the public what genetics and genetic testing is all about.
I blogged about it regularly and did quite a few TV and radio interviews on the subject, not to mention numerous public events. There is a renewed interest in genetic testing as the science and results have become more reliable and the price has dropped dramatically. $199.00 will get you the same test I had. 23andMe is the only one of the companies that offered health results that is still in the consumer genetic testing game. The silicon valley company has encountered its own share of difficulties
however and though they offer full testing services in Canada and the UK, the United States FDA is restricting what they can offer to the American public
As part of the growing interest in genetics and genetic testing I was asked to speak tonight in Calgary about genetic testing and the implications so I thought it was a good time to re-post some of the information.
The testing services offer updated information as it becomes available so most of my old postings are not relevant any longer so I'm re-working the information and posting the most recent reports.
I'm starting with the basics. As you look at these reports keep in mind that when you get a 23andMe test done and sign up online you get an interactive look at your genetic information and, if you wish, can join the social network community that exists behind the password protected site. You have full control over what is shared and in my experience so far, the privacy controls and protections on your data work as promised.
However I share my results to help raise awareness and to show what genetic testing does and does not show.
Here is a start to the updated information and posting:
- Except in monogenetic condition your genetic testing results are not black or white. There are more like 50,000 shades of grey. Multiple genetic markers, the environment, your overall health, and many other factors influence the outcomes. 23andMe reports on roughly one hundred conditions.
- There are 42 traits for you to look at and much of it you can tell without a genetic test. What type of earwax do you have (wet? sticky?), your eye colour, or if you have freckles. The online version of the report however will give you some insight into the factors at work. If you take the time and give it some thought you'll also start to understand the probabilities involved.
- This gives you an idea of what per cent of your DNA comes from which population and where. If you choose to share this part of your test with the online community you enter a Facebook like world where instead of new friends, you MAY find new relatives. The online interactive version is quite neat and lets you zoom in on parts of the world and look at more detail. By the way I am 2.7% Neanderthal - about average for the population.
- I shouldn't take statins if I ever need a drug to lower cholesterol. It won't hurt me, it just isn't likely to be as effective as other classes of drugs. Probably the worst thing you can do with this part of your report is quit taking a prescribed drug based on the results. If the drug works, stick with or please, talk to your doctor before you make any changes on your own. Genetics is a complex science and most of us are neither geneticists or doctors.
I'll post more information later but I wanted this initial information ready for those attending the presentation tonight.