(This blog post will be part one in a series of posts that explores my experience with 23andme)
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is increasing in popularity. I saw a popular television show that featured the company 23andMe and their genetic testing kit. It interested me right away. The company analyses your DNA against certain DNA patterns that may indicate certain disease risks (i.e., early onset alzheimer’s, parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer), personal traits and even your likely response to certain medications (i.e., anticoagulants). When I originally heard about this company they were charging close to $300 dollars per kit (excluding shipping of ~$50 since I live in Canada.) The website explains that the expensive shipping cost for Canadian orders includes: shipping to the customer, return shipping, and any customs fees that may be encountered. They’ve since lowered their price to 99$ per kit and when I heard about this last night I quickly grabbed my credit card. $99 + shipping is a great deal considering the amount of information you receive after they analyze your sample.
After the purchase I began to wonder, are the results from the company really trustworthy and accurate? Are there really certain genes that are 100% indicative for certain diseases or traits? It has been a while since the genetics portion of my biology class in university. What about security of the results after they’ve been analyzed? Are they able to be accessed by other companies than 23andme? I never really gave it too much thought before ordering the kit. So I decided that since I just placed my order and it takes about 2-3 weeks for delivery, I had some downtime to look for answers.
According to Wired Magazine: issue 15.12, 23andMe was founded by Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki (wife of Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin). If you haven’t figured it out yet, the 23 stands for the regular number of chromosomal pairs. The companies kit they send out to consumers contains a tube marked with a dotted line. You have to collect enough saliva to make it up to the marker before you package it up and ship it back. Don’t forget to register the kit online before sending it back. Once received by their lab, plan on waiting a good 4-6 weeks for results to populate on 23andme account.
I’ve read some of the privacy statements on their website. I feel comfortable with them handling my personal information. There’s nothing that indicates they want to do more with it than to increase research and discovery. You can check out their privacy statements here.
My next post will be about the information that is provided after the analysis. I expect to receive my kit in the mail within the next week. That gives me enough time to look around and find out what other people are saying about 23andMe.