My previous boss was the first to introduce me to 23andMe about 2 years ago. The purpose of the company is to take you DNA, run a genetic analysis, and give you personalized results that is highly specific to your genomic makeup. These results can range from determining you ancestry (to a certain degree of certainty) to telling you your level of sensitivity to certain drugs. Genomics is a very hot field right now, and as medicine is attempting to become more personalized, genomics’ role in medicine will continue to grow for years to come.
For the non-biologically inclined, the “23” is derived from the number of chromosomes, or largepackages of DNA, that humans contain. One they have your DNA, which they extract cheek swabs, they use PCR (Polyermase Chain Reaction) to make millions of copies of your DNA. That DNA is then placed on a DNA chip which compares small segements of your DNA to determine what SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) that you have. Since 99.9% of our DNA is genetical identical to other people, it is the last 0.1% that makes each one of us different. The SNPs constitute this last portion that makes each one of us unique. (Naturally I am comparing only genetic material and avoiding the complication of epigenetics….that’s a whole other can of worms). Once your unique set of SNPs, of which you have thousands (if not millions), are compared to a database, 23andme can give you personalized information.
I’ve seen many similar websites, but in terms of how powerful, holistic and asetically pleasing, 23andme takes the cake. Now it all sounds very intrituing, but it comes at a price. The “Ancestry Edition” is $399, the “Health Edition” is $429 and the combined package is $499. Genetic testing is still quite expensive, but it is getting cheaper. In the next few decades, I expect this same test to be <$100.
To preemptively answer the inevtiable question “Did you get it?” I have not. I would LOVE to, but medical school is in my horizon, so I’ll need those $500 for books. But I hope one day soon, I will get it too because I see how useful it will be….plus I find it just plain cool. So grab those cotton swabs, and check out your DNA profile….you may learn something you never knew about yourself.