Genetic Testing - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

The data is so valuable that the tests will be free and less complicated as time goes on.

Genetic Testing

I just got the results from my genetic tests. I wasn’t first to the game. Over 1 Million other people have done this before me.

About two months ago, a small package arrived from 23andme. I’d gone to the website, forked over the $99 and waited two weeks. The package contained a plastic tube, a label and some instructions.

It was simple. I spit into the tube, put it in the box, affixed the label and dropped it at the post office. The little bits of anxiety receded as time passed. By the time the email arrived, I’d almost forgotten that it scared me initially.

I was surprised that the results came by email. I was expecting a letter in the mail.

That’s a funny anachronism. I do most of my interaction with the medical establishment online. As a Kaiser member, all test results, patient records, prescriptions and videos of x-rays and procedures are online. Mostly, when I need to talk to the doctor, I do it in email.

Still, I thought that something as major as genetic test results would have more formality than one more email interaction.

As I dug into the results, I understood the issue. I had no idea how much information I was going to get. The report covers genetic risk for over 100 diseases, 40 ‘carrier’ measures, 20 drug responses and 50 traits. In a week or so, the report will include detailed ancestry information and the ability to search for long lost relatives.

It turns out that I am in the maternal hplo group H2a2 which includes Dr. Oz (whoever he is). I’m in the paternal haplogroup R1b1b2a1a1 like Stephen Colbert and Charlie Rose. I don’t think of myself as being that pasty white.

I have an increased likelihood of becoming a heroin addict. I can taste a sort of bitterness that many people can’t. I can smell the asparagus smell which is another trait that makes me special. I have Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency which increases the odds that I’ll get emphysema.

There are genetic reports on my learning style and susceptibility to alcoholism.

The scariest part of the process was looking at my predisposition for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. I was delighted to discover that I have a lower than normal risk of getting either. It’s one of my biggest phobias.

Reviewing the data with my family was a delightful experience. Everyone wanted to get their own results. The scariness and strangeness evaporated into a swirl of curiosity.

As I digest the info, I’ll tell you more. I am now equipped with info that describes my reactions (or lack of reactions) to drugs. There’s a host of info that will make my involvement with Kaiser’s team way more effective.

And guess what.

This stuff isn’t going to be private for very long. If I can find my relatives using genetic information, then the reverse is true. It won’t take long until employers will be able to make a pretty good guess.

The test costs $99 today. It will be $50 by the time they reach 20 Million and $25 by the time they reach 100 Million. Because the technology will be driven by Moore’s Law, it will get cheaper, smaller and less intrusive. The data is so valuable that the tests will be free and less complicated as time goes on.

Even the anonymized aggregate data is powerful. It makes possible the predicting o drug markets and life expectancy.

It’s really hard to get your arms around the implications of global ubiquitous DNA testing. It’s coming fast.

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