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Biotech Medicine Science Technology

Direct-To-Consumer Genetics Testing Makes a Splash In Boston 78

eldavojohn writes "MIT's Technology Review has the scoop on the first annual Consumer Genetics Show starting today in Boston and it looks like the rage these days is genetic testing sans the middle-man physician. And it's getting more prevalent and more available: 'A number of companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing have cropped up in the past two years to capitalize on these advances, from 23andMe and Navigenics, which offer genome-wide scans to identify specific disease-linked genetic variations, to Knome, which offers whole-genome sequencing to the wealthy. Any doubts that personal genomics is making its way into the mainstream can be assuaged with a look at Interleukin genetics, a startup that sells genetic tests for heart-disease risk, B vitamin metabolism, and other factors through Amway, the direct-sales company.' Over-the-counter genetic tests may be much closer than you think. The article raises concerns that this information will be misused/misinterpreted or even provide a false sense of security. We've discussed some states prohibiting this last year."
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Direct-To-Consumer Genetics Testing Makes a Splash In Boston

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  • by pzs ( 857406 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @12:45PM (#28267599)

    Have your own DNA sequence would be cool and everything, but it's not everything [wikipedia.org]. Epigenetic changes have a massive impact on gene expression, they're not included in the sequence and they're heritable. Of course, there are lots of things you can look at in the sequence, but you could miss a lot by getting too hung up on just the sequence.

  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @12:52PM (#28267731) Journal

    The same govt that plays politics with Schiavo's tubes

    Whoa, there! Don't blame that political circus on the Govt as a whole - that was entirely GOP's political overreaching. Special intervention by the Governor of Florida, Bill Frist diagnosing a patient by video from the floor of the Senate, and then all the silly pandering and theatrics - that was all a play to the base.

    Don't blame the entire government for the actions of some cynical jackoffs.

  • by pzs ( 857406 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @01:11PM (#28267979)

    Don't even get me started on the complexity of the bioinformatics that will be involved in resolving this data. All you'll need is for somebody to misplace a switch in the pipeline of tools you need to analyse data from these insanely complex high-throughput sequencing [wikipedia.org] devices and you could get completely unreliable results.

    Of course, that won't happen because IT professionals never make mistakes.

    The difference between a pathological and a normal allele could be just one SNP [wikipedia.org] - any number of cockups in experiment or analysis could misidentify this kind of difference.

    I know, this kind of misdiagnosis can happen anywhere, but these companies are selling some kind of miracle new method when we're only just getting started on understanding how high-throughput sequencing works. Bad idea.

  • Re:Genetic Blackmail (Score:3, Informative)

    by dk90406 ( 797452 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @01:24PM (#28268207)

    There was a law passed saying you can't discriminate on genetics.

    There, that will stop the criminal blackmailer in their tracks. :-P
    On a more serious note, IBM (and hopefully other companies), has made a corporate rule to never require genetic information from employees or from people applying for a job. They are out early, but that is only good, as future tests may reveal tendencies for violence, psychopathy or ...

  • Re:Genetic Blackmail (Score:3, Informative)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @01:54PM (#28268675) Journal

    That's really insightful. It brings to mind the movie GATTACA when ethan hawke had to be extremely careful of where he left his dead skin cells, saliva, hair, etc. But this will be the case regardless of whether these tests are direct to consumer.

    Imagine a home kit for paternity testing. Someone could get access to some of the british royals saliva or hair and blackmail them with proof that prince harry was diana's lover's son. I know it's blatantly obvious already, the guy is a spitting image of her red headed ex lover and looks nothing like charles but you'd be amazed how many people don't believe it.

    In fact, why not high-throughput this stuff? How long before companies install sample collectors on the subway and start storing and cataloging millions of people's DNA? How long before the government decides to do it en masse? I mean they're already expanding their efforts here [washingtonpost.com] here [infowars.com] and here [].

    Hopefully people wake up at some point and demand legislation which states that their biological information belongs to them and cannot be used without their express consent.

  • Re:psychopathy? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dk90406 ( 797452 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @02:16PM (#28269063)
    True, that is a risk. But all companies get their share of psychopaths today. They use people to screen them, and generally stop them before they are put in positions, than can damage the company.
    There are many jobs they are not ideally suited for, but they may be damn good as programmers or other non-people facing jobs.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"