The smell and taste of cilantro is disgusting and yet you can’t understand how it’s such a popular flavoring herb. As a kid you’ve always taken pride on your ability to do back-bend kick overs and didn’t understand why the other kids would only fall on their head attempting to do the same move. And there’s that colleague you’d love to invite out, her barely audible chewing sounds drive you nuts. For all these and a whole lot more, a very logical explanation lays in your genes.
23andme is the first genetic test available for public use. For about €200 (seasonal discounts available, such as 20% off for Father’s Day) anyone can get access to the information encrypted in their 23 pairs of chromosomes and be compared to the average tested candidate:
- ancestry composition %: geo, race related and how close your genome is resembling to Neanderthal
- genetic health risk markers: find out among others if you have the gene responsible for Alzheimer
- wellness reports: predisposed weight, caffeine consumption, deep sleep, reaction to alcohol, lactose tolerance, muscle composition, sleep movement, saturated fat and weight
- traits: asparagus smell detection, back hair, bald spot and male hair loss, bitter taste perception, cheek dimples, cleft chin, earlobe type, earwax type, eye&hair color, finger length ratio, freckles, hair curliness, newborn hair amount, photic sneeze reflex, skin pigmentation, sweet tooth, unibrow, Widow’s Peak
- carrier status: conditions you’re likely to pass on to your children
Having over 2 million people tested in 10 years since it exists, 23andme answers and brings light over some of the most difficult to answer questions:
- who are my biological parents?
- do I have relatives I didn’t know about?
- do I present higher risks towards known conditions?
- what are my native physical and mental abilities?
And then comes the trickiest question of all: do you really want to know? How will you handle this information? Because one thing is certain and common to ALL people who took the test so far.
Opening Pandora’s box
And the most impacting is, you guessed correctly, the far left. In 12 weeks since submitting your spit sample you’ll get access to a great deal of data about yourself and your family that you didn’t know about, how will this influence your life? If you’re a hypochondriac, Quirk Heaven advises you to save your money and sanity, this leads you to no good. Most of the doctors and wellness professionals argue there’s not much you can do about keeping yourself safe. The advice to eat, sleep, exercise well and don’t skip the age recommended medical exams remains universally valid, as well as the importance of wearing sunscreen, nevertheless seeing that risk of melanoma spiking over the average might be more motivating to make you pop open that SPF tube.
Another aspect comes from risk adversity and may have repercussions over whether to have a child with a 25% higher chance of genetic mutation. These findings can be shocking and really influence negatively the quality of life of an already anxious, mentally burdened person. On the opposite specter, would knowing that you’re among the 1% population immune to the HIV virus enable you to skip the condom once in a while?
There are however situations for which 23andme can provide closure, relief and hope: when all medical investigations fail to determine the cause of a certain type of suffering. In this case, the test price is really peanuts. The skeptics argue that 23andme is a dangerous company which possesses too much personal data. The founder of the company happens to be the spouse of the Google creator, now you can take the math further. Some keywords to consider: hate crimes, discrimination prosecution, dangerous ways of interpreting raw data, DNA dependent access to websites and so much more.
Last but not least, a lot of the conditions that a human being develops have nothing to do with their genetic imprint and everything with environmental factors, like lifestyle.