23andMe’s (Free) DNA Test: Pointless Or Profound?

23andMe’s (Free) DNA Test: Pointless Or Profound?

23andMe’s DNA analysis kit doesn’t cost $US200 today. Rather, it’s free. So, now that the super steep price can’t scare you away from a deep analysis of your genetic past and future, is it worth it? Gizmodo’s opinion is divided.

On the pro side, we brought you a stirring, somewhat disquieting account of what it’s like to gaze into your helix. The revelations are poignant, and unforgettable, even if the insight is limited given our understanding of the genome. But even with what was available to be revealed, our author felt “lucky to have experienced a small, if humbling, peek into what may be in my future-pure science fiction just 20 years ago”. The experience was amazing, though eery and disturbing:

We sat there for a moment. My wife had remained coolly objective regarding my genetic results until Alzheimer’s came up, and for the first time in our relationship, I imagined a life in which I, the proud male, was the physically weaker one, in which we staved off an almost inevitable ravaging of my brain starting who knows when.

But there was no laughing it off, so instead I chose to shrug. I dodged the bullet of one APOE marker only to be hit by another. Whether or not that bullet, irremovable from my DNA, actually injures me is something I’ll always worry about-keeping an ear to the ground on the latest researches of prevention, and hoping that 20% always rounds down to 0%.

Our sister site in Australia, however, had a much different take: 23andMe is just a straight up waste of time. Aussie Giz’s Elly Hart deemed the test mostly a novelty, and its information sparse and vague to the point of being entirely unhelpful:

So what did I learn? That I can’t drink more than one glass of milk a day without my stomach exploding, that I really should never touch heroin, that if I think my boyfriend smells, he needs to be put in the shower right away, and that if I get fired for being inefficient at avoiding errors I could maybe seek career advice from Usain Bolt.

The report, despite being overwhelmingly positive, did nothing to make me feel better. If anything, it’s made me feel worse. If I do happen to contract Hepatitis C one day, I’ll probably freak out to the point of being inconsolable. Every time I have a drink now, I’ll worry about my body’s “reduced ability” to break it down. That’s no way to have a beer!

My suggestion is that unless you have a specific reason behind your motivation, don’t bother with genetic testing services, especially if you’re not of European ancestry and under the age of 30. I can see how it may be useful as a preemptive measure for people with a family history of a debilitating disease, or for people who are seeking out long-lost relatives. But for the rest of us, the money is probably better spent towards a gym membership, more fruits and vegetables and health/life insurance. And not having to worry for the rest of your life about something that may or may not happen to you? That’s priceless.

Read both pieces and full and be the judge. Still, for $0 (plus the annoying monthly $US9 cost of that newsletter), you don’t stand to lose much more than a vial of your spit and some time.