Monday, August 2, 2010

Follow Newsweek Reporter as She Tries Out the Autosomal DNA Tests

You can even keep up with Mary Carmichael on Twitter if you want to.

DNA Dilemma: The FAQs

Some guidelines and details for my week-long project.

I’m trying to choose whether or not I want to take a direct-to-consumer genetic scan of hundreds of thousands of variants in my genome. Before we get started with the big questions, here are some basic queries that many consumers may have, as well as some information about myself and this project.

So how will this work, anyway?

I'm currently in possession of a direct-to-consumer genetic test—I just haven't decided if I'll use it. For three days this week, I'll pose a question a day to a variety of sources about the value of these tests. I'll post their answers on this site, along with my reaction. I'll also be soliciting opinions from commenters and people following me on Twitter. On Friday, Aug. 6, I'll evaluate everything I've learned and reveal whether I've decided to take the test.

Which DTC genetic testing kit did you buy?
Currently, there are two large, reputable companies offering scans of hundreds of thousands of genetic markers directly to consumers, the same ones that introduced the tests to the public, launching within a day of each other in 2007: 23andMe and deCODE. I don’t plan to reveal here which company’s kit I bought, because I don’t want to become a de facto ad for either company if I take the test. However, it’s worth noting that there are some differences between the firms. 23andMe charges a lot less, for instance—$499 for a health and ancestry scan, compared to the $2,000 price of the deCODEme complete scan—and tests for about half as many genetic variants, 550,000 compared to deCODE’s 1 million. Aside from the occasional embarrassing slip-up, 23andMe does a fine job of quality control in identifying genes. So does deCODE, which isn’t a testing company so much as a lab that happens to sell tests while producing a near-unrivalled body of genetics research. Both companies have also put a lot of effort into conveying their findings in innovative (if not always fully transparent) ways. They try to interpret their data with a lengthy report and continuous updates on the Web; deCODE’s service even links to the original research that underlies the test.

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