Family Matters

Test Your DNA for Diseases — No Doctor Required

Anne Wojcicki plans to sell whole-genome sequencing directly to consumers, no doctors needed

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Spencer Lowell for TIME

Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe, based in Mountain View, Calif., is planning to make whole-genome sequencing available directly to the public

When Anne Wojcicki’s son was a baby, she ran a swab across the inside of his cheek, collecting DNA to send to a lab. Last year, when she was pregnant with her daughter, she tested her amniotic cells. The goal in each case: to get a glimpse of her children’s genes and determine whether they contain certain kinks that increase the risk of developing anything from gallstones to multiple sclerosis. “As a parent,” says Wojcicki, “the most responsible thing I can do is get as much information about my children as possible so I can then think through how I can make them as healthy as possible.”

Wojcicki isn’t just any random parent, though. She’s a Yale-educated biologist and the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, a company in Mountain View, Calif., that sells DNA analysis directly to consumers — no doctor required (See TIME’s inside look into 23andMe’s genetic testing lab here). “Your information is your information,” says Wojcicki, who is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. “If you want it, you should be able to have it.”

The second in a five-part series exploring the promise and pitfalls of sequencing children’s genomes

Genetic tests have been around for years, but in 2003 scientists took the field a step further, announcing the first complete mapping of a human genome — an entire genetic code. Sequencing, or “reading,” a person’s genome is one of the newest, most controversial tools in the medical arsenal because of the mother lode of information it contains about future disease risk. Genetic markers for heart disease or cancer may spur consumers toward healthier behavior. But when it comes to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that can’t be prevented, many experts are divided on whether knowing is helpful or harmful.

Yet even as physicians and bioethicists wrestle with the implications of revealing dark DNA secrets, entrepreneurs like Wojcicki are planning to make whole-genome sequencing (WGS) available directly to the public. Other companies, like San Diego–based Illumina, are already offering the test to what its CEO, Jay Flatley, calls a “healthy and proactive” demographic.

So far, these tests have been aimed mainly at early adopters: tech-savvy folks who buy the latest smart phones and are comfortable with life on the cutting edge. But as prices keep falling, the audience is likely to expand. Can the average mom or dad handle knowing all about the risks lurking in their kids’ DNA?

“Everyone at this point is flying by the seat of their pants,” says Jim Evans, a medical geneticist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who is editor-in-chief of Genetics in Medicine. “The technology is outpacing us.”

Parents, of course, are often particularly receptive to the latest promises of medical science. Firms offering private cord-blood banking bombard expectant moms and dads with what-if scenarios that can tempt all but the most hard-bitten parents-to-be to spend thousands of dollars storing frozen cord blood that will most likely never be used.

(MORE: Will My Son Develop Cancer? The Promise (and Pitfalls) of Sequencing Children’s Genomes)

image: 23andMe's custom genotyping array chips are mounted for processing. Each chip probes individual samples for approximately one million genetic variants (or single-nucleotide polymorphisms - SNPs).

23andMe’s custom genotyping array chips are mounted for processing. Each chip probes individual samples for approximately 1 million genetic variants (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs). Photograph by Spencer Lowell for TIME

Adding to the confusion: it isn’t easy to interpret sequencing results. Much of our genome remains a mystery, and sifting through the sheer quantity of information generated by sequencing can be overwhelming. Even medical professionals, after years of training, are often unsure what to make of the pages and pages of data that genomic sequencing spits out. Dr. David Margulies, who oversees a Children’s Hospital Boston initiative to make genetic and genomic insights more accessible, says better interpretation is “the last major barrier to widespread clinical use of DNA sequencing.”

In Cambridge, Mass., a company called Knome is working on erasing that barrier. For $2,000 per person, Knome does the data crunching needed to interpret a sequence, figuring out what all those billions of nucleotides, or DNA “letters,” mean. When the company launched five years ago, its clients were mostly universities and pharmaceutical companies. Now it’s going mainstream. “There has been a big shift this year,” says Knome CEO Martin Tolar. “We have been swamped with requests from clinics.”

(SPECIAL: A Look Inside 23andMe’s Genetic Testing Lab)

Knome’s software separates the data into tiers of relevance. Says Tolar: “There will be a report about different levels of importance that says, These variants are actionable, meaning you know what they are and can do something about them, these variants don’t seem relevant, and these are novel variants we haven’t seen before and don’t yet understand.”

Yet even though some companies are making complex genetic data more digestible, direct-to-consumer tests like the ones 23andMe offers have been criticized for their methodology, which some critics regard as genetics-lite. To weigh in on a person’s predisposition for conditions including celiac disease and melanoma, 23andMe looks only at a small fraction of points along someone’s genome. The company is currently seeking FDA approval for this approach. In the past year, other direct-to-consumer DNA companies have closed up shop before undergoing this kind of regulatory scrutiny.

(MORE: Genetic Testing for Kids: A Good Idea?)

image: One of the sample processing rooms in the CLIA-certified laboratory; DNA samples are applied to 23andMe's custom genotyping array and analyzed here.

One of the sample-processing rooms in the CLIA-certified laboratory, where DNA samples are applied to 23andMe’s custom genotyping array and analyzed. Photograph by Spencer Lowell for TIME

Eventually 23andMe intends to start offering WGS, which dives much deeper by analyzing all 3 billion base pairs, or sets of letters, that make up a person’s DNA alphabet. But unlike the dozen or so academic labs and private companies that are already sequencing genomes or exomes (the subset of genes that codes for proteins, which regulate the body’s tissues and organs), 23andMe would not require a physician’s approval for this process. That means that one day, accessing a sophisticated sequencing test could be as easy as buying a pregnancy test at a drugstore.

Many in the industry remain skeptical about cutting out the clinician. GeneDx, a Maryland-based genetic-testing company, charges $5,000 to sequence an individual’s exome. But the company will run its tests only per a doctor’s request. “If you leave out the physician, there could be significant misunderstandings,” says Amar Kamath, GeneDx’s vice president of marketing.

Parents, for example, may not know that genes are far from the last word in determining disease risk; environment plays a significant role too. And they may be unprepared to respond to the news that their children are predisposed to develop serious diseases as adults. It can be an emotional blow — and a lifelong burden — if a mom learns that her baby girl carries a mutation that increases her risk of breast cancer or a dad finds out that his aspiring linebacker is genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s. That’s why Illumina’s Flatley personally vets every clinical case and refuses to sequence kids who aren’t sick. “We don’t do this just for fun,” he says. “We do it on children when we’re trying to save their lives. We don’t believe parents have a legal or ethical right to do this.”

Wojcicki doesn’t share that viewpoint personally or professionally. Since 23andMe launched in 2006, more than 180,000 people have been tested as the price has fallen from $999 for information on 14 traits and health risks to $299 for more than 200. About 3% have been children, and Wojcicki thinks demand for testing kids is on the rise. “I do believe at some point in time everyone will be genotyped at birth,” she says.

(MORE: Scientists Decode an Unborn Baby’s DNA. Is It Cause for Celebration — or Alarm?)

Nor does she disagree about the value of having a doctor weigh in; she says she had the data from her unborn daughter’s testing sent to her pediatrician. “I did actually find it helpful to walk through that with her,” says Wojcicki. But she takes issue with the need for a physician to sanction the tests in the first place.

Though Wojcicki won’t discuss her kids’ results, she recently mused on her company’s blog about her motivation for testing her children. She’s particularly interested in Parkinson’s disease because her husband has a genetic mutation that heightens the risk by up to 80%. Brin’s mother has the disease; his kids stand a 50% chance of inheriting it.

Wojcicki, who is 39, notes that some genetic findings could be used to influence parents’ everyday decisions, all the way down to which sports their kids play. For instance, there’s a gene mutation called APOE-4 that indicates a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In people who test positive for APOE-4, research has associated traumatic brain injuries with a greater likelihood of brain disease.

In other words, if you know your kid has the APOE-4 gene mutation, you just might knock youth football or ice hockey — Wojcicki played on the varsity team at Yale — off the list of extracurriculars. At the least, you’d probably give extra consideration to insisting that your child wear a helmet on the soccer field.

For Wojcicki, this emphasis on genetic testing has nothing to do with overprotective parenting and everything to do with preventive medicine. “The way I can potentially start to prevent certain illnesses is to know what they’re at higher risk for,” Wojcicki recently told TIME. Her grandmother had macular degeneration; when testing revealed that some of Wojcicki’s nieces and nephews are at higher risk of it, she responded by buying them high-quality sunglasses. If her own kids were predisposed to developing diabetes, she’d encourage healthier eating. “I want to do everything I can to potentially enable my children to be disease-free,” she says.

This is the second in a five-part series exploring the promise and pitfalls of sequencing children’s genomes. Read the full series.

MORE: Complete Genetics Coverage

35 comments
fiaporter
fiaporter

The much more significant issue here is that the FDA has decided (read their letters to 23andMe) that individual consumers can't handle the truth of their health evaluations. That consumers wouldn't be able to assign the proper weight to the health information, and either wouldn't--or would--seek medical attention. This is not a question of the test not working. It is a question of deeply disturbing proportions about how the US government, via the FDA, hasn't decided that individuals are entitled to an educated medical interpretation of their DNA.


It is the FDA looking out for diagnosticians, and blithely denying individuals the RIGHT TO KNOW the information THEIR OWN BODY CONTAINS.


This should be a scandal of Snowden proportions. 


I can hire persons/companies to analyze and opine on my financial portfolio, the feng shui of my office, my gym workout, my astrological outlook (etc., etc.) and I am expected to use my own critical thinking re how to use the analysis, but somehow, I'm incapable of doing the same with my genetic information? 


Those who don't want to know, don't take the test! But make no mistake, this is the FDA protecting doctors who prefer their patients to know as little as possible. We  OWN our bodies and have a natural right to the genetic data they contain. If we desire to have that data interpreted--at our own expense--why is 23andMe now BANNED from providing that information?


Track my mobile calls--I could care less.  But deny me information that I pay for that relates to my body's unique genetic profile? Because I am too delicate a flower to handle it? Or if it is allegedly useless, why can't I waste my money if I choose?


Understand this is the beginning of a epic battle--the right of individuals to their own genetic information. 

ainee
ainee

SOME! MAY! DEEM! SUCH!,(THE TEST!), AS! PLAYING! GOD!!!. IT! IS! MORE! THAN! THE! VALUE! OF! OUR! OWN! LIVES!, THAT! ONE! DOES! NOT! WANT! IN! ANY!!! WAY!, ANYWAY! SHAPE!, OR!, FORM!,THAT! ANY! CHILD! SHOULD! HAVE! TO! SUFFER!!!...; MUCH! LESS! YOUR! OWN! CHILD(REN)!!!. I! PERSONANLY! VIEW! THE! TEST! AS! A! 'HEADS UP!' TO! MEETING! WHAT! 'NEEDS'! THERE! MAY! BE!!. I! TRULY! BELIEVE! THAT! QUANTITY!, &! QUALITY! GO! HAND! IN! HAND! AND! SHOULD!  BE! EQUALLY! ABLE! TO! BE! SHARED! BY! ALL!!!

HoldYourHorses
HoldYourHorses

I would be FURIOUS if my parents did this to me.  Not every adult would want to know their Parkinson risk; how dare these parents obtain this information on behalf of their child who is too young to consent?  Can you imagine being an independent adult whose parent has such intimate knowledge about them if you didn't want to know it yourself?  Can you imagine how hard it would be to hide that knowledge if you were the parent?  The article also overlooks the greater familial implications.  We inherit genes from our parents- anyone found to have a breask cancer risk (the actual genes contributing to the largest breast cancer risk are NOT currently included in the 23andMe profile, btw) inherited it from mom or dad, who then is confronted the information completely out of the blue.  I have had too many individuals in my clinical genetics practice decide that they do not want that information to think that this is a trivial risk.

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

One thing Time has failed to mention  is the revolution in genetic testing is mostly associated with identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the chromosomes, i.e. variants. People are actually more than 99% identical at every location in their genome.  The genetic tests seen in the crime shows on tv are of a different character.  Those tests are looking at 13 loci (locations) for unique patterns of  single tandem repeats (STRs).   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism   VS. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsatellite

IrisInTheOzarks
IrisInTheOzarks

IrisInTheOzarks May I suggest that the fearful folks take a look at the following: #1 HIPPA 1996 (Fed Protections re genetic information. #2. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GWBush) in re Ins Companies & others. It began with Clinton's Order 13145.As one who has quite a few family members tested thru 23&me, I believe it worth the cost,no matter what the  surprises  (and there have been some).Before criticizing , one should visit the site for the demo-The Medical aspect has been very helpful. The geneaology  information filled in a lot of gaps for the family. No one loves anyone less or is in distress that a child may not have the "super-athlete gene",nor is the one with 2 copies of APOE4 gene, who has joined clinical trials. The teenagers are amping up math/chemistry/biology skills. So, for all the Chicken Littles, take  a deep breath-it's science that is here to stay. 

f4xtrafn
f4xtrafn

If you try to get insurance or file a claim on your health of life insurance you will be required to truthfully answer some health questions including any knowledge you have or procedures you have undergone. If the claim is substantial, you will also need to sign a release allowing the insurance to dig up everything they need to deny your claim. You must release all information, medical and otherwise. Check your policies carefully - the information you get may inadvertently disqualify you from coverage because your policy may require you to notify them immediately about any adverse health issues. Any precondition or possible higher risk of a condition in your future may disqualify you from coverage or even get you cancelled if you are currently covered. Looking into your future health is only for the very wealthy who can pay their own way.

SokrMom
SokrMom

All that's required is a lot of money!

MikeLewis
MikeLewis

As a kid I knew 6 of my great grand parents. I'm pretty sure I know my future.

DanielBanks
DanielBanks

An amazing idea and tool and is good for the strong willed. Anne is brave taking this on. 23andme must have huge liability insurance premiums haha. As long as this sort of thing stays optional and never becomes mandatory, I think for science this is great. However here comes loving each other for what you've got in your biological makeup rather than what's in your heart. Relationship criteria. Social sites DNA compatibility apps. DNA testing before marriage! Hurray! /Sarcasm. People could give up on those they genuinely love and opportunities based on probability. Could be very cut and dry. Some of the nicest people are those who care for the sick or those with disabilities. It brings the best out in people. You could say those situations define you. My biggest concern is that people may become suicidal knowing their probable future or even that of their child. What would be a disaster is if statistical information changes occur that show less probability of a disease than they originally had tested and people had been severely mentally affected by the previous information. I can imagine many already unstable teenagers being suicidal over knowing their probable fate. Survival of the fittest thinking ties well in with power (Fascism proved that) and takes out needing to care for others. Have to be careful with that one. Lots of ethical questions isn't there :)

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

Most of my family has their 23andme results.  Come to find out one of my grandsons has a 45% chance of developing diabetes in his life time. Before knowing this he was a little pudgy. Now forewarned and thus forearmed he is eating fewer carbos and exercising more losing some pudginess.  He knows this is for life.  My wife is a carrier of familial Mediterranean fever which was passed to my son and his daughter.  My granddaughter is now aware that if she should have children with another carrier that there is a substantial probability of bringing a child into the world that will suffer during its life - she will not let that happen.   I see nothing wrong with one's genome being publicly accessible.  I have made mine publicly available on line along with my medical records for a few years back.  So what if people know I am low on testosterone, or that I have diabetes?   Now if I were mentally ill or carried a contagious disease, I might care, but those are examples of the very things others would want to know about for their self protection., and probably should know.  Nature is not fair. It is called natural selection, survival of the fittest.

vgupta123
vgupta123

The so-called "science" of predicting common diseases from genome is based on very shaky statistical correlations because controlled trials--involving one group of people that has a particular set of genes and another group that does not--are very hard, if not impossible, to carry out.  Moreover, in any such trial, environmental factors would be very hard to control. Therefore, barring exceptions like Down Syndrome, where the correlation between defective genes and the disease is 100%, genome-based prediction of common diseases like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's etc. is simply an example of profiting from junk science. 

AndrewK777
AndrewK777

The latest and greatest in helicopter parenting.

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@f4xtrafn  What would be wrong with a person with no genes for probability beyond average of developing an expensive to treat disease inviting others with such healthy genes to form a mutual insurance company, getting reinsurance from Lloyd's of London as backup?  It seems like the cost of such insurance would be much cheaper than insurance currently on the market.   It might be a good business selling the package to groups of people.

nullcodes
nullcodes

@SokrMom The cost of the equipment to do this is falling rapidly. It cost $1 Billion in 2001. Today it costs $100,000. In 5 years it will be at $100 (the cost of a special micrchip and a USB that you put a drop of blood in) .. there are lots of companies independently developing the technology to get to that price..

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@SokrMom   23andme charges $299 for their 1 million snps.  They have specials from time to time. Also a fee demo account is available.  23andme dot com/user/signup/

nullcodes
nullcodes

@MikeLewis You are clueless about genetics. Talk about hubris too.

 First, there are many recessive traits that would not have been detectable in your grandparents .. however if you ended up with two copies of each recessive gene .. you'll be affected. Second you don't know what the effect of certain genes from great grandparent #1 and great grandparent #5  being together is. Third, you may have new mutations that developed in you. fourth .. well you get the picture .. there are lots of reasons why merely knowing your grandparents isn't enough.

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@MikeLewis There are a lot of people that don't know their biological parents.  You would not deny those people the opportunity to know their propensities. Right?  Also, there may be combinations in your genome that did not show up in your grandparents.  You might be facing some odd disease that is or will be in the future picked up by an examination of your variants.  Sequencing is falling in price rapidly. But then there may be things that you would rather not know.  A couple of 23andme customers discovered that mom was their mom, but their dad was not their dad.  Maybe that accounts for some of the opposition of women to knowing their kids' genome.  The signature of a child is unmistakable as is the lack of parentage.

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@DanielBanks  Maybe there should be a test administered by the testing service  to determine who should be allowed to know their genome denying access to those that are too dumb to understand, those that might freak out over adverse probabilities, or those that not otherwise react appropriately.  Another way of of the arrogant saying "I know what is good for you."  We see way too much of that already.

vgupta123
vgupta123

The claim that, based on his genome,"one of your grandsons has a 45% chance of developing diabetes", is meaningless nonsense. Lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, are not a linear function of genes and diet/lifestyle where genes do 45% and diet/lifestyle do 55%. It is a complicated nonlinear function (or function of a function) of genes and diet/lifestyle. Imagine that a car engine gets overheated and damaged when you drive the car uphill on a gradient exceeding 5% and at speeds exceeding 50 mph.  If most people drove 30% of the time that way, the genome of the engine (i.e., its design) will predict a 30% chance of overheating (and resulting damage). But you can completely bypass the problem by not driving that way at all, and thus reducing your probability of overheating to 0%. In other words, you can veto the genetic expression by using proper diet/lifestyle. Finally, it turns out that the diet/lifestyle things you must do to prevent diabetes are the same things that everybody should do anyway (regardless of his/her genes). So this whole genome-based prediction is no more useful than an astrologer's prediction. 

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@AndrewKamadulski  In the past fluoride in drinking water was opposed by those that did not understand the science behind it.  Now concerned parents prudently get their kids teeth painted with fluoride by the dentist.  The kids of "helicopter parents" mostly are more successful and healthier than those neglected by their parents. My wife taught high school for 35 years from remedial reading  to bussed in students  to the gifted over those years.  Concerned parents make all the difference..

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@vgupta123 A 23andme member spent years suffering symptoms from undiagnosed  celiac disease.  The parent took genetic information to kid's doctor.  Once on a gluten free diet, life for the kid improved a lot.  Another member was highly likely to be subject to hemochromatosis.  The member had been having problems for years with various diagnosis of something else.  The member introduced the possibility to his doctors. Once treated for the correct disease, life changed.  Personally, I was predicted to be lactose intolerant.  I had never had problems with milk and disputed the assessment.  Well, after a serious round of antibiotics, I suffer from lactose intolerance.  A big bowl of ice cream is enough or a full glass of milk  to cause problems, where before the bacteria were wiped out by the antibiotics, I was able to eat as much ice cream as I wanted, as well as milk.  Clearly a case of bacteria taking up the slack.  Now I am careful to not eat much ice cream or drink very much milk - or be prepared for the consequences.  I am going to hunt for the right bacteria to get rid of the problem.  My sons' genomes show they did not inherit lactose intolerance.  One of my granddaughters did, but from her Chinese mother who is predicted to be lactose intolerant.  As a baby my granddaughter had to take a special baby formula.  It took some time without her genome as a baby  to know what the problem was. With a clue from her sequencing, the first month of her life would have been much easier for everyone.

My snps (single nucleotide polymorphisms ) correctly predict the color of my eyes, the color of my hair and my skin tone among other things.  So, I conclude you are flat wrong about the astrologer's thing.

AndrewK777
AndrewK777

@jimcmillan @AndrewKamadulski Concerned parents do make all the difference, but helicopter parenting is not the same thing as good parenting. After teaching these kids in college I can tell you without a doubt that those with helicopter parents are not at the same maturity level and are incapable of doing many common tasks or even thinking for themselves. Their parents have done it all for them and now that they are on their own in college they are lost.

Thank God for FERPA so when one of these dysfunctional parents tries to contact me about their childs grades I can just give them the blow off. If you are a college aged student and your parents are still trying to talk to the teacher to get you better grades, you need to go back to junior high. You are not ready for the real world.

IrisInTheOzarks
IrisInTheOzarks

@vgupta123 @jimcmillan UPDATE to earlier post.23and me does have some predictions based on probabilities & statistics but there are other, more specific, valuable features.such as screening for carriers of inherited diseases (anyone can opt out of knowing abt their own specific genes in re Alzheimers/Parkinsosn etc,.) In the interim since my 1st post,one of our family members has had some life-changing news. Now 50, he had for over 10 years taken his laundry list of symptoms to various MDs.As a health care professional, he has excellent care access. Each time he was "treated for symptoms" and in most cases told, "Well when we hit 40 these things start to occur..." In his recent 23andme  info he discovered that he does have mutationn(s) mutation associated with Hemochromatosis (Iron Overload) which can be fatal if left untreated.Testing confirmed diagnosis.The hereditary type is NOT uncommon, but IS commonly missed because each symptom can be & is associated with many chronic conditions inc "getting older"Those wasted years have a telling legacy, but he is now going to be getting  appropriate treatment.Unfortunately liver & heart problems are longstanding....I had seen the reference to H in another post early on but paid no attention-"not something I needed to know about"..SO FYI folks, take note,look up the symptoms.This is a disease that is very often undiagnosed 23and me was well worth the cost in this case!:

vgupta123
vgupta123

@jimcmillan That is very profound, yet simple. Even an astrologer can understand the correlation between storm clouds and rain. And he could predict our future for a lot less than 23andme. 

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@vgupta123 When I see storm clouds coming my way, from experience of past correlations, I think of rain.

vgupta123
vgupta123

You are good at skirting the main issue by belittling others (first The Atlantic, and now the teachers). The main issue is: Where is the independent scientific evidence (independent of companies like 23andme) that the prediction of diabetes II probability based on SNPs has any validity at all? Where are the controlled trials? And don't just mention some statistical correlation study because there are thousands of genes and hundreds of diseases, so correlations between genes and diseases are dime a dozen (like correlations between past football scores and stock prices). Even astrologers can cite some correlations between zodiac signs and past events in peoples' life.

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@vgupta123  Interesting.  Teaching is not the same as application or understanding.  I discovered something interesting.  I have yet to find a single high school math teacher that immediately knows how to prove the Pythagorean theorem - at least 2000 year old knowledge.  I used to require my wife's students who came in desperation to the house for a late letter of recommendation prove it.  They could do it, every one of them after a  short period of confusion and lack of confidence. It only takes a little imagination. Don't cheat.   I am merely a more or less happy customer of 23andme.

vgupta123
vgupta123

Looks like you are an employee of 23andme. Anyway, I teach probability and statistics, that is why I understand what Prof. Ionnidis is saying in his research papers. I am not sure you have read and understood them. What he is saying, in effect, is that there is no credible evidence that a high (or higher) probability of  developing diabetes II can be predicted based on SNPs. So everyone should eat well, avoid obesity, and exercise regularly (but not excessively). It is good for preventing a host of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and so on. Analyzing SNPs and relying on them for common lifestyle diseases like diabetes II is a waste of time and money (except for 23andme employees).

jimcmillan
jimcmillan

@vgupta123   You might get a free demo account at 23andme for elucidation.  Your contentions are well understood.  It is clear that most people don't start off life expressing the propensities revealed in their SNPs.  That is where knowledge of the probabilities come in.  If a person does not yet express the problem suggested by the probabilities, the idea is that the development of the disease may be delayed or prevented by changing the environment.  For a clear example take type II diabetes.  Being obese is a risk factor.  That is known because such a high percentage of fat people develop diabetes.  Well, one way to reduce your risk is to not get fat. Further, exercise is known to increase insulin sensitivity so your pancreas does not need to make so much of it.  Those with the SNPs conferring a high probability of developing diabetes respond accordingly to reduce the risk by 1. not getting fat, 2. exercising more than they otherwise would, 3. reducing stress on their pancreas by avoiding carbo by getting more of their calories out of fats which do not require insulin to be metabolized.  To simplify the concept of probabilities more take a six shot revolver with one cartridge.  The statistics on a random cylinder of the gun going off are clearly one chance in six.  But if you just keep pulling the trigger without spinning the cylinder, your chance of getting shot is increased.  There are number of sites on the net that explain the basics of probability.   Staying away from Las Vegas is the easy way to avoid the risk.  Good Luck.  Let's hope you have great SNPs.  Ignorance is bliss.

vgupta123
vgupta123

That is a nice way to belittle some well-meant feedback. Anyway, if you have a Ph.D. in statistics, you can also read the underlying research article by Prof. Ioannidis in plosmedicine.org

vgupta123
vgupta123

@jimcmillan Predicting color of the eye, skin and hair is no big deal because color is not a disease that depends on environmental (diet and lifestyle) factors. Similarly, genes can also predict diseases that are essentially independent of environmental factors (like Down Syndrome). But they cannot predict that a child will develop diabetes 35 years later. Why? Because diabetes is primarily a lifestyle disease. And because the statistical evidence connecting specific genes to diabetes is very sketchy (to put it politely). Please read "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science" in the Nov. 2010 issue of The Atlantic. And I hope your grandson studies a lot about statistics and statistical deception.