Our current health care system is built around reaction: doctors wait for patients to fall ill and only then find a way to heal them. But what if, some time in the future, doctors can predict what disease you might contract and help you prevent it? What if, like Angelina Jolie did in 2012 when she elected to have both breasts removed after discovering she was at high risk for breast cancer, you could take steps to head off the devastating diseases that plague our lives today? That’s the future as envisioned by Anne Wojcicki, CEO and founder of 23andMe, a company that is bringing affordable genetic testing to the masses.
Wajcicki founded 23andMe in order to arm consumers with information about their own particular set of genetic predispositions. With a single test, an individual can find out if they carry certain conditions that may cause health risks or that could be passed on to children and how that individual might react to certain drugs. And now you can purchase the test, which originally cost $999, for a mere $99. Once you send in your DNA (in the form of a vial full of spit), your results reveal information on more than 240 factors, including ancestry, risk for diabetes, how likely you are to get Alzheimer’s and even how long you could live.
In addition to providing the consumer with amazing insight about themselves, the information is a way to gather valuable genetic information about the population at large, which could help battle diseases like Parkinson’s and cancer. Critics of the technology, including some doctors, worry that the information might be misleading or generally useless, particularly given the fact that each consumer has to interpret the results for themselves since the fee does not include having someone interpret the results for you. Additionally, many doctors aren’t trained to deal with this type of information, so an incorrect genetic interpretation could result in discrimination lawsuits or violation of privacy.
People who have used the test kits, however, have been able to take proactive steps to tip the health scales in their favor and have even formed communities on the internet to utilize the information they have received to help others. Testers have shared their information on combatting allergies, health information about adopted children and in a study to find a cure for Parkinson’s. The possibilities are endless, and now, for under $100, anyone can get a better idea of what their health may have in store for them.
Via Fast Company