I have always been interested in genetic testing, watching with jealousy as TV personalities had them done for various one-off programmes. I had no idea that it was possible for members of the public to get their genetic profile until I saw a post on Alex from Leed’s blog. I began researching the company and it quickly became obvious that it was something I wanted to do. I managed to persuade my husband to get the test too, so that I’d know his health risks and we’d have a vague idea of what we might pass onto our children.
23 and Me are based in the US, but it was surprisingly quick and easy to buy the test kits ($99 each) and post saliva samples back ($80 for DHL courier for two test kits). After about six weeks we received our results. Luckily there were no big surprises and it was nice to discover so much information about how our genes are likely to affect us.
The results are divided into five sections:
- Health Risk
- Drug Response
- Inherited Conditions
The first four sections give reports on over 240 health conditions and traits as well as testing for over 40 inherited conditions. The results are listed in tables, with every item linking to an explanation of the scientific research behind each result. To give you an idea, here is the top of my ‘Health Risk’ table, showing my relative risk of developing each condition.
What was interesting was how unsurprising these results were. I suffered from Restless Legs Syndrome during pregnancy and the 4 other conditions in the top 5 have all occurred somewhere in my family before. Many people seem to be worried about learning unpleasant information, but if you are familiar with your family history then chances are that you’ll know most of the details already. I’d also rather be prepared and know which diseases I should keep an eye out for.
For me the most interesting section was the traits. At 5’11” I wasn’t surprised to discover that I have the ‘tall gene’, but it was interesting to know that I am unlikely to lose weight from a Mediterranean diet and have the muscle twitch of ‘an elite athlete!’ I love the fact that 23andMe update your results as new scientific discoveries are made as each time I log on there appears to be new information.
The final section is the ancestry one. Unfortunately mine was very boring. I’m 98.7% European, with the remaining 1.3% ‘unassigned’. If you’re of mixed race then this section will provide you with far more interest, but I’m afraid knowing I’m mainly British wasn’t that exciting!
My friends and family have all been interested in the results and many have ordered test kits for themselves. If you are interested in registering with 23andMe please use this link, as I receive $10 for each person who does so (apart from the test I have had no direct contact from 23 and Me and was planning to tell you about their service before they launched their referral scheme this week).
Genetic testing is almost unheard of in the UK, but is far more common in the US where there are debates around how much should be revealed to medical insurance companies. I am pleased to be one of the early adopters of this test and look forward to comparing my results with others.
Have you had a genetic test?
Are you interested in getting one?