23andMe are a private organization that perform genetic testing on consumers as a means of helping them learn more about their ancestry and health. There are 23 chromosomes in a normal human cell which is where the company gets its name. They claim to be able to test for 100 illnesses, traits and conditions. The company has gained national recognition and has featured on the Oprah Winfrey show as the Times and has also received an estimated $6.5 million from Google as the search engine giant decided to invest in the genetic testing company.
How It Works
The process is simplicity itself on your part. You order a kit from the site’s online store, register the kit, spit into it and send it off to the company’s lab. 23andMe’s lab has been certified by the CLIA and takes in the region of 6-8 weeks to analyze your results. Assuming you have registered correctly, you will be able to log in and see your results online.
When the 23andMe lab receives your sample, they extract DNA from the cheek cells. They copy the DNA for the next step which is genotyping. The DNA is cut into smaller pieces and entered onto a DNA chip which contains millions of surface microscopic beads. ‘Probes’, otherwise known as pieces of DNA, compliment sites in your genome where SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphism) can be found. There are two SNPs, each of which have a pair of probes. When DNA pieces that compliment each other are found, they stick to the probes which match your SNP. We have 10 million or so SNPs in our genome on average and the above procedure tests one million of these SNPs.
The basic kit costs $399 though it is available for $99 with a $9 monthly charge thereafter. In September 2011, the company announced that it was announcing a special program for current members known as Exome 80x. For $999, you can have 50 million base pairs of your exome examined.
The site provides members with updates about their DNA that have been made and is an extremely useful way of finding out if you have inherited any diseases. It can also be very exciting to discover your ancestry. If you qualify for certain research initiatives, you may even have the testing done absolutely free. The procedure itself couldn’t be easier and the results are often quite accurate. Although the current price range seems excessive, the process of SNP genotyping is a fraction of what it was just a few years ago.
It is not nearly as accurate as Full Genome Sequencing which costs around $5,000 to perform because it is a far more complex procedure. The Exome test is intriguing but, because it measures little or no Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA, it is only a test for health and not ancestry. As the standard test doesn’t sequence your whole genome, it cannot be taken as a comprehensive health check.
If you have the money available and have a genuine interest in learning more about your past, 23andMe offers you an exciting opportunity. Those hoping to know more about their health can get useful information but it may not be as accurate as a full medical performed by a doctor.