Our DNA offers up the answers to questions we never knew we had. This fiber of life is found inside every cell in our body (apart from red blood cells), with every one of our ten trillion cells containing roughly two meters worth of DNA. It can solve crimes, assess risk and provide information on a person’s susceptibility to illness. 23andMe offer a way to unlock the secrets our DNA holds in an incredibly simply way, delivering the results within six weeks direct to your inbox. Their little kit is easy to use and can be popped in the post without the faff often associated with at-home testing services; you simply spit into the vial enclosed, pop it in the bag provided, seal, place back into the box and send it on its way by posting it through any postbox free of charge. All of the laboratory testing for 23andMe is done in a CLIA-certified (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments), CAP-accredited (College of American Pathologists) laboratory in the United States, completely confidentially and with the utmost importance placed on security. The results are fascinating, but can also have a long-lasting impact on both yourself and your family – they test for over 40 inherited conditions, the response to ten drugs, identify over 40 traits and provide information on ten different genetic risk factors.
I’ve just had my results sent back to me and I’ve spent an entire hour looking through them with utter fascination. There’s no huge booklet to flick through or complex system to get your head round, as 23andMe host all results online via a secure network that only you can log in to. They’re broken down into the four areas they concentrate on (inherited conditions, drug response, traits and genetic risk factors,) each of which has a clear breakdown of the meaning behind each result. Not only are you able to find out your intolerance to lactose, your predisposition to certain characteristics (they correctly identified I have blue eyes and my hair is curlier than average!) and how quickly you metabolize caffeine, but they can also identify risk factors that could seriously impact your life.
Three results are held within a ‘locked’ section which you have to agree to the ‘terms’ before viewing; they clearly take their ethical responsibility seriously, as they even advise counseling to deal with the results if necessary. Luckily I’ve expressed no traits of breast and ovarian cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons disease (but that doesn’t mean some abnormality couldn’t pop up forty years down the line,) but I can imagine those with a family history will be able to put their mind at ease and act upon the results if they do. The 23andMe service doesn’t provide a medical diagnosis, but it does provide peace of mind or an interesting insight into the way your body works – it’s all about making informed decisions. I have a family history of Alzheimer’s (both my paternal grandmother and great grandmother had it,) so I was genuinely expecting to show a higher propensity to develop the condition; the weight off my mind is immense, even though you never know for certain.
I would have like the results to show more of the day-to-day things that have an impact on our lives, such as a clear indication of allergies or intolerances, but I guess there’s a limit to what the guys in lab coats can achieve with a vial of my spit… (The glamour.) The service is a little slow (waiting six weeks for results really tested my patience!) and the results do require time to process and understand the consequences, but this is a great way to understand your body and your genetic characteristics in an simple way. At £125.00 for a kit it’s not a cheap way to pass the time, but if you’re genuinely interested or concerned about a specific area, it could be a wise investment to make. I’ve tried at-home allergy tests before, but this is the most comprehensive and fascinating platform I’ve experienced – which, partnered with the international processing, more than justifies the price point of the pack. This won’t be for everyone, but 23andMe offer a really interesting insight that takes the scary science out of understanding our bodies.
Have you ever tried an at-home allergy or DNA test? Would you be interested to try 23andMe for yourself?
The 23andMe DNA testing kit is available to buy online, as well as via selected Superdrug stores, priced £125.00. Postage is included.
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