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$999 For a Complete DNA Scan, Worth it? 451

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
DoroSurfer writes "ZDNet is reporting that 23andme.com will open its doors on Monday, allowing you to send them a cheek swab and have your DNA analyzed for $999 (plus shipping, of course... ;)). So what's a thousand bucks buy you? They can tell you your ancient ancestry, They can tell you what diseases you're predisposed to, They give you a "Gene Explorer" that allows you to do a search in your genome to find out if you have a certain gene (e.g., you just heard on the news that Gene XYZ has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease)."
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$999 For a Complete DNA Scan, Worth it?

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  • by suso (153703) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:03PM (#21561143) Homepage Journal
    Looks like someone hasn't watched Gattaca [imdb.com].

    They may have a nice privacy statement, but that doesn't mean any thing if they aren't really enforcing it. Who knows?
    • by darthflo (1095225)
      [...] if they aren't really enforcing it, you might have wanted to use at least a fake name, even better a disposable P.O. box address.
      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:55PM (#21561831) Homepage Journal
        Yeah..I was wondering exactly when the information would be released to the insurance companies, so they can cherry pick people even better than they do now. I've heard anecdotal evidence that they've even turned down people for coverage due to athlete's foot as a pre-existing condition!?!?

        After that...I wonder how long before the various branches of government will require this DNA data be turned over for the US Homeland security national DNA database?? Of course, we won't know about it...this will be required with a national security letter, which will gag the company from even mentioning the requirement.

        More and more I find that Python wasn't just being funny with the skit "The Importance of not being Seen", they were prophetical.....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      They may have a nice privacy statement, but that doesn't mean any thing if they aren't really enforcing it. Who knows?

      So why bother disclosing your real information? I don't know what the payment methods will be, but signup under an alias and them mail them an untraceable money order. They may have your exact genetic makeup, but if they don't know who you are, your DNA might as well be anonymous itself.

      Taking it a bit further, it seems like a good way of dealing with privacy in this area is to hide thing

      • by macklin01 (760841) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:42PM (#21561675) Homepage

        I know, I know. You could probably just data-mine the DNA itself to figure out individual identities. In the future, if you ever go to another site and put it a few genes (for whatever purpose) that get linked to your real identity, you will be screwed. But hey, how's that any different than data mining Netflix?

        Well, if somebody finds my Netflix data, they may find out my most secret movie preferences. If insurance companies or employers link me to my DNA and discover a genetic pre-disposition to brain cancer or a debilitating disease, I'll never get health insurance again, and the misfortune will probably extend to any offspring as well. And would anybody hire you (and again, your children) if you have a genetic pre-disposition to MS or some other debilitating condition? Prospective employers are already googling for damaging Facebook information; just wait until genes enter the mix!

        Until good privacy protections and anti-discriminatory legislation are in place, we're talking about a whole different level of risk. -- Paul

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hey! (33014)
          Well, why should the company match personally identifiable information with genetic information? Granted, to some degree genetic information is the data.

          One way would look like this. The customer buys a package which has the sample kit, a pair of postage guaranteed mailers with no return address, a ten sided die, and a sample container with a universally unique, random identifier. The customer takes the sample and places it in the container. He then rolls the ten sided die to generate a fifteen digit PIN
      • But hey, how's that any different than data mining Netflix?

        Your Netflix rental history isn't as helpful for a nosey insurance company looking to drop policyholders with genetic predisposition for expensive illnesses.

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:16PM (#21561321)

      They may have a nice privacy statement, but that doesn't mean any thing if they aren't really enforcing it. Who knows?
      Wouldn't they fall under HIPAA [wikipedia.org] since this involves medical testing and records?
    • In Other News (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lupine (100665) *
      White House seeks to expand DNA database [usatoday.com]
      Citizens, including juveniles who have been arrested for a crime(but not convicted) are being added to the governments DNA database.
    • Looks like someone hasn't watched Gattaca [imdb.com].
      But has someone searched Slashdot tag "gattaca" [slashdot.org] and found the last article on this topic [slashdot.org]?
  • Not worth it at all.
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Informative)

      by FalconZero (607567) * <FalconZero@Gmail ... minus herbivore> on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:17PM (#21561335)
      With regard to being 'worth it'. It's also worth noting that despite the article title, this isn't a complete sequence. 23andMe will scan ~550,000 Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs [wikipedia.org]) out of the (roughly) 10 million SNPs humans have, which is again quite different from a complete sequencing of the 3 billion base pairs in human DNA.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ed1park (100777)
        I believe that a full sequence like Watson had could be done for as little as $100,000. If not now, then soon.
      • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:41PM (#21561661)
        Exactly, and we don't have any particular reason to believe at this point, that those 550k include all of the ones that would be interesting anyways. A complete sequence would be far more useful even before we know what everything does, because later on one could reinterpret the sequence without having to do it a second time.

        One could much more easily go in later and interpret the sequence, than have to do it a second time to fill in the missing gaps.

        Personally, I'm going to pass at least until I can have my entire DNA sequenced. I may even then wait depending upon the level of concern I have for what is done with the information.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mauthbaux (652274)
          I had a longer response to this typed up, but it was nearly incomprehensible. Here are the main points:

          1: There's only about 20k-25k protein-coding genes (ORFs - open reading frames) in the genome.
          2: There's a lot more going on in our cells than we know about. About a third of the mRNA transcripts in a cell can't be adequately explained by our current understanding of transcription.
          3: Of the genetic diseases we know of, they can all (AFAIK) be explained by polymorphisms in the ORFs, or their associated
  • Gattaca, anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Abreu (173023) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:04PM (#21561161)
    Hopefully this wont become mandatory for job applications, like credit reports are in some cases...
  • by Besna (1175279) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:05PM (#21561169)
    I'm going to wait for the full genome scan. Early adopters here will be getting much less than the real thing. With X-prize still contests around for genome scanning, it should not be too long. I want every C, T, G, and A.

    After that, I'm all for it. Not even a needle prick is needed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865)
      I'll be all for it once the government wants to pay for it. The telco companies violated numerous laws to "aide" the government in "hunting for terrorists". Government homeland security agent used database information to harass and threaten his ex girlfriend. Google and Yahoo! work with just about any government to do whatever they want against their people, in the interest of better corporate relations with their governments.

      So why exactly should I not expect my DNA information to be archived, cataloged an
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JavaLord (680960)
        You need to read about Learned Helplessness [wikipedia.org]. You can prevent your government from enacting policy, that is if you can get over your perceived inability to do so.
    • Well, make sure that $999 buys you complete confidentiality of the results of your genome. Preferably, they should provide you the genome sequencing, and then delete all the information from their systems. You don't know what the future holds, and if you think giving your search results to Google is a great enough violation of privacy, try having a private company having your entire genome and tell me how that feels.

      Personally, I'd wait until some poor schmuck sues a genome company for violating his privacy
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dan East (318230)
      I'm going to wait for the full genome scan.

      I know the real reason. You're just dying to include a checksum of your DNA in your sig.

      Dan East
  • $99.98
    You come from monkeys
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by lixee (863589)
      All your gene are belong to us.
    • No, that's the National Geographic [nationalgeographic.com] version. The report is a little different; although, they state that as the state of the art advances, the results available to you will be updated accordingly. Anyone done this?
      • by darthflo (1095225)
        The NG version is all about Genealogy/Genography; 23andMe or deCODEme seem to provide similar detail in that area plus insights about your expected health problems and capabilities.
        All three offers are updated with new discoveries and results.
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:07PM (#21561199)
    I'm a 6' 5" muscular, blonde, blue-eyed swede. I can tell pretty well what my DNA is, it's AWESOME, thank you! So no it's not worth a grand.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by moogied (1175879) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:08PM (#21561203)
    Does it say what my metachlorian count is?

    Need information yoda does.

    • by darthflo (1095225)
      Midichlorians live, as far as I know, in your cells and blood. 23andMe analyzes a cheek swab. Unless your spit is blood, no, it won't tell you.
  • Only if... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NosPAm.optonline.net> on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:08PM (#21561205) Journal

    ...it reveals my latent mutant abilities. I'm personally hoping to find out I can generate fire.

  • by haluness (219661) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:08PM (#21561221)
    How long will it be before they "lose" the gene data? Or maybe "share" the data?

    Also given that the CEO is Sergey Brins wife, I wonder whether Google will get involved at one point?
  • Somewhat dupey... (Score:4, Informative)

    by darthflo (1095225) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:09PM (#21561223)
    This has already been mentioned [slashdot.org], except last time the spotlight was on deCODEme [decodeme.com] by deCODE genetics which offers more details (1m vs. 600k "sites" of the genome) for less ($985 vs. $999).

    I'd love to hear about the results, though.
  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:09PM (#21561239)
    For rich hypocondriacs. More seriously, I wonder what the implications are for the insurance, medical and even dating industries.
    • by kebes (861706) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:19PM (#21561373) Journal

      For rich hypocondriacs.
      Indeed. And therein lies a significant danger.

      For instance, high-resolution full-body scans [wikipedia.org] (a CT scan of every inch of your body) are frequently criticized because they are so accurate and exhaustive that they will nearly always find something. Even a perfectly healthy individual will have a variety of benign masses of tissues which will show up on CT. Some experts have even estimated that a full-body scan will statistically reduce your health (or chance of survival or whatever) since it increases your risk due to unnecessary secondary tests more than it reduces your risk due to early detection.

      Yet many (overly rich?) people want full-body scans because they want to make sure that any possible disease is caught... not realizing that you expose yourself to risk with each medical test.

      I worry this kind of gene-sequencing will do the same thing: many people will see their results, not properly interpret the risks, and go rushing out for secondary tests (some of which have a small danger associated with them). Worse, some people may read their results and change their lifestyle without medical consultation, in order to "manage" a condition that they have not actually expressed yet. (And, again, you can do more harm than good when you try to manage a condition you don't have, at the expense of doing things that would actually make you more healthy.)

      Obviously it's a personal choice if you want to gather this extra information about yourself. I just hope that the companies offering this service make the risks clear and help the customers actually understand the data and probabilities.
      • by GryMor (88799) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:34PM (#21561591)
        The benefit of a 'healthy' full body scan isn't finding current problems. When you do have a problem, already having had a scan when you didn't have that problem, allows a new scan to be much more useful, in as much as you already know what was there ahead of time, and can take a gander at what has changed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ceoyoyo (59147)
          Screening full body CT scans are criticized primarily because they increase your risk of dying, not decrease it.

          The radiation from a full body CT scan isn't that big a dose, but it has a non-zero chance of causing a lethal cancer, particularly in young people. The chances of having the scan saving their lives is also non-zero, but closer to zero than the cancer risk.
  • by netelder (41) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:09PM (#21561241)
    deCODEme http://decodeme.com/ [decodeme.com] does this for $985 (intro price) and has the advantage of being based in Reykavic Iceland, out of reach of easy US Govt access. Another (US) company is NaviGenics http://www.navigenics.com/ [navigenics.com].

    Very much worth it if one is interested in learning about and working to minimize one's genetic risks.

  • Misspelling (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mesa MIke (1193721) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:10PM (#21561245) Homepage
    > $999 For a Complete DNA Scan

    The word is "scam", not
    "scan".
  • by The Angry Mick (632931) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:11PM (#21561257) Homepage

    A nice call from your insurance company informing you that they are dropping your coverage due to a genetic predisposition for X disease.

  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:11PM (#21561267) Journal

    That's a lot of money for a relatively new technology. While I think the idea is cool, I'd rather wait a few years when it's cheaper, works better, and there's more competition in the field. Let the early adopters pay the high fee and the rest of us can reap the benefits when the costs come down.

    And of course, every year we'll have a better idea of what the results actually mean.

    Maybe one day it will be as simple as a home blood-sugar test - "use this combination finger pricker/USB drive to get an instant scan of your DNA!"

    • by dintech (998802)
      I'd rather wait a few years when it's cheaper

      You might be dead by then. However, don't consider this as a good reason to adopt the iPhone.
  • They give you a "Gene Explorer" that allows you to do a search in your genome to find out if you have a certain gene (e.g., you just heard on the news that Gene XYZ has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease).

    Oh boy... this is going to take hypochondria to a new level.

  • by nacturation (646836) <[nacturation] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:16PM (#21561331) Journal
    As anyone who's watched ST:TNG knows [wikipedia.org], a cheek swab isn't completely reliable. You need to have a long needle going into your abdomen in order to get pure enough DNA to make a clone.
     
    • You need to have a long needle going into your abdomen in order to get pure enough DNA to make a clone.
      Baldercrap! You only need a forkful of back growth scrapings to make a clone!

      • by apt142 (574425)
        Wrong again! According to The Tick, you only need a used tissue to make a clone. Now, granted said clone will be green and slightly weird.
  • by eclaculator (1197723) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:17PM (#21561343)
    People frequently confuse microarray SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) studies with an actual DNA scan that identifies all 3 billion A,C,T and G bases in the human genome. This $1000 option looks at about 2 million KNOWN sites which vary between people. These mutations are not the ones that actually code for a disease, but because they happen to be NEAR the actual ones that do on the chromosomes, it is assumed that if you have the SNP mutation, you will have the disease-prone variant in your genome as well. The problem with this technique is that it only measures variants that we know about, whereas a true complete DNA scan would be the "gold standard" and provide you with the most detailed information possible. Unfortunately, a true DNA sequencing of this variety runs about $100000.
  • Apart from a few very strong known genetic associations, there is currently little that your genotype can tell you about your current or future well-being. The strong associations are so strong, chances are you already know about it (cos you or close family members have something wrong with you). The weak associations tell you things like your chance of heart problems might be 3% higher than the majority of the population because of a few SNPs.

    It's possible that you could find some unknown aspects about y
  • by timcrews (763629) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:20PM (#21561391)
    Our doctor advised us once that we should not do genetic assays unless it was a serious health situation. Anything that you learn in the negative direction may be grounds for future denial of health insurance coverage. If you're just curious -- it is probably better not to know.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:20PM (#21561395) Homepage
    As a science junkie (but engineer by day), it seems apparent that genetics technology could be as big as (if not bigger) than computer technology has been for the past twenty years. The problem is, someone with a BS in Software Engineering or Computer Science will start out making $50-%70k, while someone with a BS in Biology will only make about $30k. With those kinds of numbers, a scientifically inclined undergrad would be making a huge gamble by selecting Bio as a major.

    My hope is that services like this will start to provide jobs for our current Bio grads, pushing the salaries up to a level that makes the choice of a Biology major much more desirable. Only then will the genetic revolution really start to take off.
    • by NevarMore (248971)
      If CS grads are supposed to start out at $50-70k I am either retarded or grossly underpaid. Highest offer I got fresh out of college last year with almost 2 years of relevant internship experience was $45K.

      When adjusted for reality your bio people are living below the poverty line in most areas.
      • If CS grads are supposed to start out at $50-70k I am either retarded or grossly underpaid. Highest offer I got fresh out of college last year with almost 2 years of relevant internship experience was $45K.

        When adjusted for reality your bio people are living below the poverty line in most areas.


        Depends on the area where you first get the job offer. I started out in a wealthy area, with moderate housing costs and after a few years moved to an area with a low cost of living. I got a higher (well higher tha
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by confusednoise (596236)

      a scientifically inclined undergrad would be making a huge gamble by selecting Bio as a major.


      A huge gamble if the size of your paycheck is the only criterion you use to judge the success of your career choices...there are others - pursuing what you love comes to mind, for example.

      Just food for thought...
    • i resent your implication that majoring in biology is a gamble. as a current bio undergrad, i'd like to say that many of us do just fine after college. yes, the starting salary may not be spectacular, but look at the number of doctors with bio degrees. an intern's starting salary out of med school is a tad better than minimum wage, but it scales rather quickly. i know most people with a BS (or BA, which is what I will be getting)in bio don't go to med school, but I would bet that many many doctors have an u
  • by moore.dustin (942289) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:21PM (#21561417) Homepage
    While privacy is an issue, I think this sort of thing could an invaluable tool to know more about yourself. Some may want to not know about what they are predisposed to, but I have a hard time understanding why. Sure, you may be hit with something life changing, but those are things I want to know - the sooner the better too. Think of it this way, before you buy are car you should look into its safety, reliability, etc etc. - you look into the investment to know what you are getting into. The same can be said for the DNA decoding - you should know what kind of body you are walking around town with so you can accommodate for any shortcomings nature bestowed upon you.

    You can claim ignorance is bliss, but seeking to be willfully ignorant of a subject is the height of irresponsibility.

    On the question of whether or not it is worth it for $1000... well I think so. Look at things in the long run - you'll have in inside track on those insurance companies.
  • by thealpha (308746) * on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:28PM (#21561511)
    Having been previously misdiagnosed with Leukemia and acting on that diagnoses for almost a year, I can tell you that being told that I'm predisposed to something would make every day difficult and worrisome. Shoudl I eat that? Why do I have a headache? My feet are hot, is that a sign?

    I would rather have it surprise me and then live every day for what it's worth. Else you might think you sick and run up a bunch of bills you can't pay when you find out you're fine.
  • by NickCatal (865805) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:30PM (#21561529)
    National Geographic has a project called The Genographic Project [nationalgeographic.com] that will take your DNA and trace the ancient travels of your ancestry. It costs $100+S&H and your data is stored along with an anonymous code only you know (before you send it in.) Then the group takes all of the data it gets and puts it all together to further their research.

    The team behind the project has already collected thousands of samples from people worldwide who have interesting lineages (Indiginous people in xyz area) and found out some REALLY cool stuff.

    The $1k thing seems like a privacy nightmare though.
  • They give you a "Gene Explorer" that allows you to do a search in your genome to find out if you have a certain gene (e.g., you just heard on the news that Gene XYZ has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease)."

    If this is your approach genetic diagnostics, then you're pretty much going to find out that you have every 'disease gene' going..
  • Caveat Emptor (Score:2, Interesting)

    Funnily enough, I got to reading about a similar service last week: The DNA Ancestry Project run by GeneBase (they've had banner ads all over ScienceDaily). As the name implies, it focuses on the Ancestry rather than giving information on disease susceptibility, though I think I remember reading that you'd have full access to your code online and be able to search it. Unfortunately, looking around for further info online returned a blog post [geneticsandhealth.com] full of commenters who were ripped off in a big way by the company
  • these types of tests are the future of medicine, i have no doubt about it (i'm staking my current education in genetics on it), but at the moment they don't provide a lot. not only do these tests only cover a very very limited portion of your genome, but their "disease predisposition" prediction ability cannot possibly be very accurate for diseases with complex and largely-unknown genetic backgrounds.

    there are now hundreds of known "hotspots" in the genome that have been linked to certain chronic diseases
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Monday December 03, 2007 @01:54PM (#21561819)
    What if I sent a swab from a perspective mate to see what genetic anomalies she may contribute to offspring? What if I sent a swab from my child to see what genetic anomalies they may have? In neither case would it be consensual.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      What if I sent a swab from a perspective mate to see what genetic anomalies she may contribute to offspring?
      I'm all for it -- now I won't be deceived about my mates' genetics due to the work they've had done by their plastic surgeons.

      I'm sick of the genetic fraud being perpetrated by these gold-diggers, I want to know up-front if my kids will be hit by the ugly stick on their way out of the womb.
  • by mcmonkey (96054)

    So what's a thousand bucks buy you? They can tell you your ancient ancestry,

    You're from Africa. Next question.

    They can tell you what diseases you're predisposed to,

    Human? All of them. And one of them is going to kill you one day. Or you might get hit by a bus tomorrow.

    They give you a "Gene Explorer" that allows you to do a search in your genome to find out if you have a certain gene (e.g., you just heard on the news that Gene XYZ has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease).

    Now this sounds interesting,

  • Gets you out of CSS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fozzmeister (160968)
    If it stops you having to pay Child Support for the next 18 years, that's gotta be worth it!
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:07PM (#21562019)
    ...but I can get my dog's DNA scanned for $100 [doggiednaprint.com].

    Seems overpriced to me. I already know I'm at risk for diabetes and heart disease, but I have no idea what breeds are mixed up in my mutt...

    -F
  • by jimicus (737525) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:16PM (#21562137)
    Does the scan come back saying "You are a direct descendant of Adam"?
  • Ownership of company (Score:3, Informative)

    by r2q2 (50527) <zitterbewegung@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday December 04, 2007 @01:28AM (#21568463) Homepage
    Does everyone know that this company is owned by the wife of Sergey Brin and funded by google? Maybe they want to search your genes next...

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