For $1,000, a small California-based company called 23andMe (financed in part by Google) will decode your DNA and tell you whatever it can about your predispositions, health risks, and family traits—for example, whether or not you’re in line for the same heart disease that affected your father and grandfather, which is what the author of the Wired article wondered. (Turns out he’s not, but he’s at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. When one door opens…)
For now, companies are offering genotyping—”the strategic scanning of your DNA for several hundred thousand of the telltale variations that make one human different from the next.” It will take a few more years before anyone can offer (or afford) to sequence all 6 billion points of a person’s genetic code, but in the meantime, genotyping can provide a lot of the kind of health-related information many people would love to know.
So what’s involved, other than $1,000?
A lot of spit, as it turns out. It takes about 10 minutes of slavering to fill the 2.5-milliliter vial that comes in the fancy lime box provided by 23andMe. Wrap it up, call FedEx, and two to four weeks later you get an email inviting you to log in and review your results. There are three main sections to the Web site: Genome Labs, where users can navigate through the raw catalog of their 23 pairs of chromosomes; Gene Journals, where the company correlates your genome with current research on a dozen or so diseases and conditions, from type 2 diabetes to Crohn’s disease; and Ancestry, where customers can reach back through their DNA and discover their lineage, as well as explore their relationships with ethnic groups around the world. Family members can share profiles, trace the origin of particular traits, and compare one cousin’s genome to another in a fascinating display of DNA networking.