The Trouble With DNA Screening, Commercial Style
Want to know if your genes put you at higher risk for disease? DNA analysis may offer some useful guidance, or not. Writing in the New York Times, Kira Peikoff, a graduate student in bioethics at Columbia, reports on the results she was given by three direct-to-consumer DNA analysis companies. “The answers were eye-opening,” writes Piekoff, “and I received them just as one of the companies, 23andMe, received a stern warning from the Food and Drug Administration over concerns about the accuracy of its product. At a time when the future of such companies hangs in the balance, their ability to deliver standardized results remains dubious, with far-reaching implications for consumers.” In short, the estimated health risks for Peikoff varied widely, often because risk was differently defined even when the firms’ data was similar. Peikoff tells us that, unlike complete genome sequencing, which would cost $3,000, the direct to consumer tests, which cost $399 for the most expensive, look at only a small segment of DNA, a practice that one expert quoted in the piece likens to reading the first letter on every page of a book. Bottom line: direct to consumer DNA analysis is a nice idea, but the commercial versions have a long way to go. Read more in the New York Times.