Direct-to-consumer genetic testing can be a trip down the rabbit hole
Genetics isn’t just for geneticists anymore. With the rise of direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies like 23andMe, anyone can rifle through their genotypes at hundreds of thousands of positions throughout their DNA. However, these new possibilities may have some serious drawbacks, says Alzheimer's-specialized site Alzforum.
Beyond lighthearted factoids about ear wax type and Neanderthal vestiges, anyone can learn much harder facts, such as whether they carry any of dozens of mutations known to cause Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia, and other fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Alzforum explores this genetic Wild West, reporting on what kind of information curious customers can find in their data files, how the FDA views direct-to-consumer genetic data disclosure, and how the role of genetic counseling is changing in the wake of the public rush to obtain genetic data from a spit sample. The story also raises hope that the movement toward personalized genetic data sharing could be harnessed toward a common good, e.g., by referring carriers of pathogenic mutations to prevention trials that could avert Alzheimer’s or related diseases.