23andMe started out by testing for genetic markers of diseases and medical conditions before rolling that back in response to the governmental concerns. It has since started slowly adding more health-related features with approval from the FDA. In April, 23andMe got approval to offer risk analysis for ten genetically linked diseases. The company now offers two options: Health + Ancestry ($199) and Ancestry ($99). The Health + Ancestry plan includes testing for genetic health risks and carrier status, as well as reports on your genetic weight, hair loss, and other traits.
Who knows how much of it made solid scientific sense? However, I have to confess that I rather enjoyed it on the level of an indulgent genome-oriented “pampering session”, just as I had a hoot with the ancestry/Neanderthal/earlobe data on 23andMe. Where Thriva is concerned, I also noted that it did advanced thyroid tests. Although such tests are available from the NHS, I’m hypothyroid myself and I know that sometimes it can be difficult and time-consuming getting tests repeated and it could be useful to be privately tested in this way.
TTR-related hereditary amyloidosis is often managed by treating the symptoms through medications or surgical intervention. However, some recently approved medications work by decreasing the production of the TTR protein, which makes it less likely to build up in the body's tissues and organs. In addition, most of the TTR protein is produced in the liver, and liver transplants have been beneficial for some patients. Scientists are currently working on other treatment options for this condition.
The technique of DNA profiling was developed by Alec Jefferys in the mid-1980s and is based on the analysis of markers in DNA known as microsatellites or Short Tandem Repeats (STRs). These markers are found at specific points (also called loci) in everyone’s DNA and they’re motifs of two-six bases (the units that make up our genes) that are repeated numerous times. The exact number of times these markers are repeated differs between individuals, but members of a family will share the same or a similar number of repeated markers, depending on how closely related they are.
Then comes the section about serious genetic variants. So far as “counselling” goes, previously, I’d waved away concern for my psychological welfare from the Observer’s science editor (“I’m a former goth,” I said. “My default setting is ‘doomed’”), but it turns out to be quite daunting. It doesn’t help that I initially mistake the full list of potential conditions for my own results, hence (thankfully briefly) thinking that I have higher risk factors for everything going. It makes me wonder – how many other people are going to do that?
The introduction of home DNA testing means that anyone who wants to can now order their own DNA profiling kit online, and one common reason is for DNA identification. This is often important for those who work in high risk jobs, in case there is an accident that means their body would need to be identified. For example, the US army requires all active service personnel to submit a DNA sample upon enrolment, primarily for the purpose of identification if they are killed in service. Not everyone who works in a high-risk profession is given this option by their employer, but individuals with dangerous jobs are free to buy their own DNA profile from a private testing company.
Which is all very well, but do these kits work and deliver the service they promise and what about the wider ethics and implications of home genetic testing? Is it always wise for generally under-informed, under-prepared consumers to meddle in the highly complex, nuanced arena of genetics, risking confusion, complacency or even outright panic and anxiety when confronted with ostensible “bad news” (which may not even be true)?
Doing an DNA test without any research can be extremely disappointing - as there are many geographical regions not represented in some DNA kits. This can cause a disconnect or very inaccurate reporting. Beyond ancestry tests, there are companies that recommend wines or exercise regimens based on your DNA. With all the available options, it’s easy to default to a recognizable name, which isn’t necessarily bad. But certain tests do specific things better. Our goal is to match your expectations with the test that fits best.
Still, it is fun see a visual and numerical representation of where your ancestors came from (generally speaking) and, although there are those who swear by one company or the other, all of these testing companies do a fairly decent job of giving you a report you can enjoy and use in your research. FTNDA recently updated to the much anticipated MyOrigins 2.0 and MyHeritage DNA just updated to their improved 42 population Ethnicity Estimate and offers a nicely detailed report.
While FTDNA is currently the only company to offer an advanced and full featured chromosome browser (the ability to analyze your results and compare matches by chromosome), MyHeritage now offers a nice integration of a simple chromosome browser right on each match page. 23andMe does not offer a browser but does show your ethnicity “painted” on your chromosomes and Ancestry does not offer this service at all.
First of all, what is DNA? The letters stand for Deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule encoding the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms. Its structure was first described by Nobel Prize winners Crick and Watson in 1953. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.