For the last decade I’ve followed news about genetically modified foods, gene based therapies, and genetic predispositions. All this research and development seemed best left for the geeks in white lab coats, but thanks to Sergey Brin and his wife, every Dick and Jane can now sequence parts of their DNA to better understand their genetic puzzle.
The website is 23andme.com, and for only $99 you can send your saliva in to be tested against over 1 million known markers that affect everything from male pattern baldness to Parkinson’s disease. The amount of personalized results you’ll receive on increased health risks, reactions to drug therapies, and personal traits is astounding. You will find that you are a recessive carrier of some disease you’ve never heard of and begin digging into research. Looking into the latest medical trials and going back through a timeline of discoveries, the endless pages of facts and preventative care act like a personalized WebMD that opens up the world of anatomy and biology to those of us that left the subjects long ago at the high school doors.
Beyond the vast amounts of illnesses, and genetic sequencing there lies another component of humanity. By comparing my DNA to that of early inhabitants I found that I am 8.2% Neanderthal… my mom assumed that number to be much higher. Looking further into your ancestry you can see your maternal lineage is Basque or believed to come from the Viking invaders into Northern Europe around the 8th century… a perfect reason to brush up on that European history. But, perhaps the biggest astonishment came from the number of relatives that can instantly be linked to you based on the % of exact DNA strains. It only took a couple days for a message to arrive from a third cousin in Ireland. Maybe it’s just me, but everyone seems so much more interesting when you think of them as fibers from the same impossibly complex family tree.
I’m continually shocked that most people I’ve spoken to about getting the test done explain they, ‘just don’t want to know’. To me it’s an odd paradigm where in a world of infinite information that we would chose to avoid exploring our most fundamental data. I guess people have enough fear pumped into their daily lives without the knowledge of an impending disease. But, If were told I had a high probability of Alzheimer’s, I can only imagine I’d make a point to create more vivid memories.