Two years ago, I learned about 23andme.com, a company that does genetic testing for health, traits and ancestry. The idea is as follows: you send them a sample of your saliva (containing your DNA, I guess from cells in the mouth mucosa), they process it and check for specific genes. Then, they compare your genetic information with the currently known research about health (higher or lower chance of getting some diseases), ancestry (maternal and paternal) and genetic traits (color of the eyes, blood group).
It took me a while to decide and take the test: the idea of giving my DNA information to a private company, with information stored and available on the net, didn’t appeal me at all. Call me paranoid, but I can’t help it. I made some reputation checks with some trusted people I know, learned that the company has close ties with Google (a co-founder is Brin’s wife) and decided for it. The main push, however, was curiosity. In my genetic code it is written how my biological computer works, how it can break, and where it comes from. Too much to resist. After you place your order, they send you a sampling container, which is a test tube with a buffer solution in the cap.
What I found out is appealing: I learned that genetically I am a very healthy person, confirmed some hypotheses about my ancestors, and realized I have superpowers: I am immune to the most common strain of viral gastroenteritis. I left my genetic information in their database and, as long as I keep paying a small fee, they perform additional analyses on my sample for new genes. I keep receiving updates about new findings around once a month.
Do I recommend it? Yes and no. The most important point to keep into account is that, once you open the box of your genetic information, there’s no way back. What you learn may change forever how you see yourself, your past, your future and the future of your children. 23andme keeps you health information hidden to you unless unlocked manually. I didn’t even ponder a second about it, and clicked on all the “show my health information” buttons I could find. I cannot deal with not knowing, regardless how bad it can be. Knowledge may also allow to take action whenever possible, but for some conditions there’s not much to be done.