There has been a “disruptive” personal genomics revolution and because of the early-adopter syndrome, many progressive folks have gotten this from 23andMe.
Sadly, I would say that 23andMe is of very limited use. With the cost of total genomic sequencing now below $1,000 and soon to approaching $135 I would save my money if you want to do personal genomics.
Having your entire genome sequenced is like having your horoscope written out in Mayan! How cool! (and as yet, unhelpful).
The most useful thing is screening for 36 rare genetic disorder gene carrier status and although beyond the scope of this blog, to find one is extremely unlikely. Thank goodness, I had none!
If you find them, some are single gene mutations may not manifest unless you have a loss of heterozygosity event in your stem cells. This means that you had two kidneys (like two genes) and one was shot from the get go; now the only good copy died and you are screwed. That is what is often occurring in genetic conditions although some diseases manifest when you have just one.
The sad truth of this kind of genetic horoscope is that is pretty useless because it represents non-actionable and potentially inconsequential information. So, I may or may not have attached earlobes? Since this, like many so-called traits, is multifactorial, the tests have a limited predictive value. And by the way, they probably used my 99.6% Asian heritage as part of their predictive model. You guys nailed it! My earlobes are attached.
But couldn’t I could just look in the mirror? Why did I do this test?
Unless you are trying to see if I’m the real or the replacement “Faul” McCartney, why is this useful?
The elusive truth is that genetics is NOT destiny unless you have one of the strange inborn genetic errors and even then, some escape unscathed as genetic superheroes according to this fun but incredibly oversimplified article.
Unless you still get birthday cards from your mailman who is a very different ancestry, I don’t see any great reason to order this test.
The truth that will only be heard by some is that you were never yourself once you divided from a single cell organism. If you made it this far, most of your genes are probably very similar to every other surviving human (and chimp, for that matter).
As your stem cells divide, they gain genetic changes which cause your genetic purity to drift ever farther from the ideal you that your parents’ sperm and egg would have wanted.
Finally, there are many epigenetic changes which are also copied in daughter cells, which we REALLY don’t yet understand, and those probably affect your gene expression and cause those older and mutated cells to act poorly.
The best solution is to have an early copy of your best DNA (like from your placental cord blood) and then use that as a source of stem cells. Is that technology available? Controversial.
The complimentary solution is to prevent genetic mutation as much as possible with telomerase activation. Shortening telomeres is the principle source of DNA mutation and the root cause of most aging and disease, including in people with less-than-perfect genetic endowments. You want to keep your existing stem cells, even if they have an unfavorable single copy of any gene, in the best shape you can by preventing those loss of heterozygosity events.
Genetics is NOT destiny. You are born with good stuff or you wouldn’t be reading this. Keep using natural ways to preserve your best copies.
POSTSCRIPT: another thing I dislike about the survey questions for 23andMe is the presumption of our entire medical field, that you get diseases and keep them, like merit badges.
It asked me if I have hypertension, but did give me the option of explaining that it has gone away. In fact, what if I USED to have hypertension, low testosterone, presbyopia (need for reading glasses), pre-diabetes, and grey hair but DON’T anymore. How does that fit with your genetic disease prediction modeling?