Taking Genomes Personally; May 2008; Scientific American Magazine; by Sally Lehrman; 2 Page(s)
For $1,000 and up, several new companies will scan an individual's entire genome for clues about ancestry, potential health limitations and the inheritance of traits such as lactose intolerance. Clients can compare their DNA with a celebrity's or invite friends and family members to share genetic profiles. Despite the comprehensive reports and background data these Web-based services deliver, some observers believe the information is more recreational than relevant.
Direct-to-consumer genetic tests have existed for at least a decade, and in recent years the number of choices has exploded. Whereas most of these offerings probe for only a small number of gene variants, advances in genome chips now allow a quick, inexpensive search for a wide range of targets all at once. Navigenics in Redwood Shores, Calif., 23andMe in Mountain View, Calif., and deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland, recently began scanning for markers associated with as many as two dozen conditions and traits. And for upward of $350,000, Knome in Cambridge, Mass., enables customers to join J. Craig Venter and James D. Watson in the elite cadre of humans who have had their entire genome sequenced, analyzed and interpreted.