Biology

Whats the future of genetic testing companies like 23andMe?

Lately companies like 23andMe have gained popularity and a lot of people have used them. It makes sense, for a small price they analyze your genes and give you data in colourful, well presented graphs for you to see. Whether or not you will end up doing anything with that data is up to you.

You can choose to only find out about your ancestry, about where your ancestors came from and if you have 1% Asian or European in your genes (which sounds stupid and i think it is), or you can add a health report that will show you your chances of having a certain disease. The test includes results for some types of cancer, alzheimer’s, celiac disease, hereditary thrombophilia, etc.

And that’s great, some will see the results and change their lifestyle, others will enjoy knowing how healthy they are and others will focus on their ancestors. As someone studying biology and genetics i find it a little bit funny. It’s not wrong, and it’s not bad either, it’s just basic. More importantly it is not connected with professionals that can make sense of those results better and give information to you and your doctor on how you should act on the data you get. Although you could in some cases i haven’t seen it being a common thing. If so it could be amazing as it would allow you to get personalized medicine based on your genes.

Ancestry service.

This is a service that detects variants in your DNA that come from a specific ethnic background and they make some associations based on that. It works and it is certainly right but who cares? I think people will use the results however they like and the results themselves will end up strengthening any racial biases they have. Psychology is complicated and when we find such definite, unchanging truths about us we tend to act strangely, we tend to try to make the best of them. And people don’t really know what being 1% Asian might mean. There can be misunderstandings and it can be messy. But i don’t know. Already we have seen reports of people using such results however they want, each for his own benefit so we will see. At the end of the day such results don’t really matter (at least for me), it’s more like a game. For me it would be 99$ for a colourful graph saying i am Greek with some random DNA from whatever neanderthal piece they find and whatever association they make. As you can tell i am not a big fan of this test.

Health + Ancestry service.

Here they do the same as before but they add a lot of tests on your genes related to your health. They test which variants you have and tell you if the variant you have for a gene is bad or good, they tell you about your chances of developing tons of diseases and a lot more. Their testing is good and they test for many things. But only a few SNPs are tested for each disease which limits their ability to detect problems. Overall though especially for the price (199$) it is amazing. I guess they order large amounts of reagents and Infinium OmniExpress-24 Kit which is the chip they use for their analyses and they end up getting low prices. They test for SNPs that are well documented and they also try to find the number of certain variants as such details are very important for some conditions. I am a fan of this service, i think it makes sense but i would like instead of the colourful graph, an excel file that i can give to my doctor to analyze and provide a more personalized approach to my healthcare.

Overall i think this is the future and the investors of such companies made the right choice. They will be the first names that gain the public’s trust to analyze genomes and if they work with doctors from all over the world they can end up cooperating with huge companies, gathering tons of data and they will be able to charge for it a lot. Everyone would want a better drug, one that will certainly work on them based on their genome. Imagine if your doctor gave you that option for 199$. I would say yes, it is not cheap but it is something i am willing to spend my money on instead of buying another iphone or something. All that data could make them the first people to discover new diseases and genes that affect millions. They have the ability to do amazing research with huge numbers of participants. I think such companies are the future of medicine and specifically personalized medicine and research. They will end up knowing tons of information about millions of people. It is both exciting and scary. We saw recently what happens when those companies lose customer data. Although i don’t know what anyone would do with it, you can’t really publish studies on stolen data. It’s a weird and exciting time. Let me know what you think, if you have used such a service and what is your experience. And for more science and tech news follow Qul Mind.

Sources: https://www.23andme.com/dna-reports-list/

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/genetic-testing-gene-panel-genetics-2316642/

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