I am often confounded by the realities of 2016. We have apps that can get you food in minutes, Star Wars films that look more realistic than ever before, and access to the endless expanse of human knowledge that is the World Wide Web. But of all the signals that have forced me to acknowledge that, yes, we are living in the future, few have struck me as hard as 23andMe.
23andMe is a direct-to-consumer genome test service meant to provide its customers with an idea of what their genetic makeup says about them. Named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell, 23andMe will take a small sample of your DNA and, from it, create over 60 reports regarding information about your health, your bodily traits, and your ancestry. The company was put on hold for two years after the FDA ordered 23andMe to stop marketing the health portion of their genetic analysis kits out of concerns that consumers might misinterpret results as a diagnosis and attempt to self treat. After making some adjustments, 23andMe came back last fall, this time with the full support of the FDA on all fronts.
When I was first assigned the task of covering 23andMe, I was hesitant. Also, I didn’t have many questions about my family history, and any information regarding my potential future health that could be extracted by an analysis of my DNA is information I’d prefer remain unknown. I expressed these concerns to a friend of mine, who immediately said he’d love the chance to get his DNA mapped, so after talking to my editor, it was established that JR would be taking part in the experience.