I Had My DNA Picture Taken, With Varying Results

“I Had My DNA Picture Taken, With Varying Results.” by Kira Peikoff, The New York Times.

In recent years, a handful of studies have found substantial variations in the risks for common diseases predicted by direct-to-consumer companies. I set out to test the tests: Could three of them agree on me? The answers were eye-opening — and I received them just as one of the companies, 23andMe, received a stern warning from the Food and Drug Administration over concerns about the accuracy of its product. At a time when the future of such companies hangs in the balance, their ability to deliver standardized results remains dubious, with far-reaching implications for consumers.

They were testing for only a small fraction of the genetic risks for these diseases, not for rare genetic variants that confer much of the risk. I could still develop those diseases. In June, the Supreme Court prohibited the patenting of genes that exist in nature. But the ban did not apply to DNA created in the laboratory, leaving the door open to additional patents in the field. That will encourage the industry to gather big bio-banks of people’s genomes — the more, the better. In the wake of the F.D.A. warning, 23andMe has stopped providing data on health risks, and a class-action lawsuit alleges that the company’s results are “meaningless.” The company’s supporters have launched a petition to protest the warning. Until and unless the predictive science improves, experts advise consumers to take most of their results with a grain of salt.

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