Thursday, October 29, 2015

Genetic Counselors Worry Over 23andMe

The relatively new personal genetics research company 23andMe has recently been in the news, because, after a long battle with the FDA, they have finally regained the right to use service their product to its fullest potential. That is, being able to provide personal genetic insight to its patrons. The product sells itself as an easy way to learn all about "what your genes have to say about you", which is quite possibly dangerous if taken to be an accurate diagnose. Even with the small print on their website saying that they are legally not allowed to give out medical advice, and as a result they are not allowed to use them to diagnose any diseases one could possibly have or give to their offspring.

After a study performed by David Kohller, a genetic counselor at the University of Michigan, reported a survey among buyers of 23andMe, and reported that only 4% of the customers had seen a professional genetic counselor (who are allowed to give medical advice) and only 40% of the buyers would see one if they thought it was pertinent to their health. This leaves genetic counselors worried that with the legalization of 23andMe's full service on board again, it will lead to a new era in which their is a rapid decline of genetic health knowledge, specifically, of one's own health.

With 23andMe giving out facts about a customer's genome ranging from simple novelties such as "do you sneeze when you look at the sun" to more important matters such as "likelihood to get breast cancer", and with all the information cheap and readily available, it looks as though it might not bode well for genetic counselors. Furthermore, their is always the possibility of a fatal mis"diagnosis". Personally, I am glad that the site got everything straightened out with FDA regulations, but perhaps they need to make it a bit more obvious that they aren't there to diagnose people, instead of advertising themselves as a company who sell you the ability to "understand what your DNA says about your health".

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