Two companies -- 23 and Me and deCODEme, just started offering personalized genetic testing. The era has arrived sooner than I expected.
For $1000, they give you a vial to spit in, and a couple of weeks later you can log on to their website and find out your genetic risks for various diseases -- eg heart disease, diabetes, and more.
They don't sequence your entire genome, but they do look at over 500,000 polymorphism sites on the gene.
Some things I noticed:
- DeCODEme seems to be a aimed more at a tech-literate audience, while 23 and Me seems to be much more aimed at a biotech-phobic audience.
- You really have to dig to find out exactly what kind of report you get, and even then it's unclear what you will learn. It appears that deCODEme has the wider list of diseases they screen for. ( Our current list of diseases includes: Age-related macular degeneration, Asthma, Atrial fibrillation, Breast Cancer, Celiac Disease, Colorectal Cancer, Exfoliation Glaucoma XFG, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Multiple sclerosis, Myocardial Infarction, Obesity, Prostate cancer, Psoriasis, Restless legs, Rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.) However, since both sites gather lots of data, they may be able to tell you about the risks for other diseases in the future.
- Both companies are taking a very conservative approach to what for many is a touchy subject. They have some of the most consumer-friendly privacy policies I've seen, and explicitly call out that they won't ever tell insurance companies what they find without your permission. They provide ways for you to hide your identity when doing the test. DeCODEme has also made an explicit policy of not telling you anything about genetic diseases that you can't do anything to prevent. Thus, they are driven towards vague, nonmedical assessments of risk.
- Both companies have an opt-in social network component. This component is designed to help you, for example, connect with other people who have a high risk of diabetes and form a support group. As frogpyjamas
pointed out, people could also use the social network feature to create groups with goals like "I have a perfect genetic profile and I'm looking to breed... let's create a new master race". It's the basic dystopian Gattaca scenario... don't just Google your date -- submit their saliva sample for genetic testing!
I'm strongly considering trying deCODEme, but I'm trying to figure out exactly what I'd be getting for my money. Any expert opinions out there?