Each year, Time magazine selects an invention of the year, something that in its way was totally revolutionary. Last year, it was Apple's iPhone; the year before that it was YouTube. This year, it's a $399 retail DNA test,
which you can take at home and learn your genetic disposition for 90 different conditions, from dyslexia to gallstones, from your chances of getting certain kinds of cancer to how well you detect bitterness.
The test is called 23andMe (which stands for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human DNA), and the way it works is this: You go to the website and order the kit. It includes a saliva test that you take and mail back, which is then interpreted.
Would you be interested in taking such a test? Would you want to know if you have a higher chance of a specific disorder or disease? Do you see it as the best way of getting health information about yourself, or a worrisome precedent that could lead to abuse?
If you are in the latter group, you're not alone. Here's a paragraph from the Time article:
"In May, President George W. Bush signed a bill that makes it illegal for employers and insurers to discriminate on the basis of genetic information. California and New York tried to block the tests on the grounds that they were not properly licensed, but have so far been unsuccessful. Others worry about how sharing one's genetic data might affect close relatives who would prefer not to let a family history of schizophrenia or Lou Gehrig's disease become public. And what if a potential mate demands to see your genome before getting serious? Such hypotheticals are endless. And some researchers argue that the tests are flawed. "The uncertainty is too great," says Dr. Muin Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who argues that it is wrong to charge people for access to such preliminary and incomplete data. Many diseases stem from several different genes and are triggered by environmental factors. Since less than a tenth of our 20,000 genes have been correlated with any condition, it's impossible to nail down exactly what component is genetic. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," says Dr. Alan Guttmacher of the National Institutes of Health."
What do you think? And despite the concerns, would you be interested enough to try?
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