When a friend of mine recently sent me a link to www.23andme.com, at first I suspected it was just spam.
I mean, sending a sample of your saliva in for DNA testing and bam, less than two months later you know everything there is to know about your genes? It just seems so new age, so phony.
I’m still on the fence about how I feel about this concept. There’s no question that it would be useful knowing if you’re a carrier for certain diseases. But then again, ignorance may not be such a bad thing.
Companies such as 23AndMe can seriously mess up your life, especially if you’re a hypochondriac. All of a sudden, 53% of your alleles are associated with Type 2 Diabetes, and you start to feel as though you’re becoming a diabetic. And a schizophrenic. And have a higher likelihood to resist anti-depression medications. And suffer from narcolepsy.
The company advertises that knowing these facts will help when you go to the family doctor, since you’ll be more informed about your genetic make-up. I honestly don’t know if it would be better or worse; self-diagnosis is one of the more dangerous things a person can do.
The ancestry portion of 23AndMe is sort of interesting, but at the same time I don’t know how useful it is. Congratulations, you’ve successfully predicted that my roots stem from Europe… along with a good portion of the world today.
I’ve also heard that this becomes a social networking tool, to find long-lost cousins 20 times removed-in-law. DNA as social networking? Now that’s something I’ve got to wrap my head around.
And don’t get me started about the personality traits. Here is a full list of the diseases and conditions 23AndMe analyzes. Do we need this tool to teach us our eye colour? Can we not look in the mirror? Can a drop of my saliva tell scientists about my reading ability, measure my intelligence? All of these traits that 23AndMe supposedly explains make the company more enticing to the client, however I just don’t buy it. It’s a tactic to get the average person interested in the product, with little to no actual medical value.
Perhaps I sound like a skeptic, or old-fashioned, and maybe I am, but I’ll never know until I get my results back. That’s right, folks, I’ve just ordered my kit in the mail. I will most definitely keep you posted, it will be interesting to see if my opinion changes with the results.
Have any of you used an at-home genetics kit such as 23andme? Am I being some ridiculous closed-minded pessimist? Am I being rational?
I guess time will tell…