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Navigenics: What my genome tells me to do

A few months ago, Navigenics.com offered me to analyze my saliva sample and genome. I happily accepted the offer and was curious to see what they could tell me. After graduating from medical school, I will start PhD training in personalized genetics this September so I’m quite into this emerging field of medicine.

navigenics-main-page2

I sent my saliva sample back to their laboratory this January and received the results in about 3-4 weeks.

navigenics-view-my-results1

I clicked on View my results and saw what kind of risks I have for certain medical conditions such as glaucoma, heart disease, prostate cancer, Crohn’s disease or osteoarthritis (9 conditions all together).

When I check one medical condition, I see something like that:

navigenics-results1

They tell me my risk compared to the whole population.

navigenics-risk

And how that medical condition is affected by environmental and genetic factors.

navigenics-all-risk

And if I’m interested in the particular single nucleotide polymorphism they analyzed, I can check the details.

navigenics-ratio

Pros:

  • The information this service provided me with was useful and I will change some things in my lifestyle.
  • I can talk with a genetic counselor to discuss the results of my genetic variations.
  • I can print the results and share it with my doctor through an understandable report that mentions the references on which they based my risk percentages.
  • They help me what I can do in order to lower my risks for specific conditions. They also let me know things that prevent multiple conditions on the Navigenics panels.
  • Each condition is covered in details (causes, symptoms, treatments, etc.). This information is powered by Mayo Clinic.
  • I can find support groups or more information on prevention.

Cons:

  • Let’s say 3 SNPs tell me I have elevated risk for heart disease. But next year, they will discover 4 new ones that defend me from this condition. So Navigenics, just like any other similar companies, can only tell me risk percentages that might change a lot in the future.
  • For example, if based on my genomic results, I have elevated risk for heart disease, what I can do to lower this risk? Exercises, healthy lifestyle, etc. Things you can tell me without analyzing my genome. Though it’s not the fault of the service, but of the state genetics is in at the moment.
  • It’s still way too expensive compared to what I get for my money as the results cannot really be used for medical decisions  (I got a free package so I know I shouldn’t say that).
  • Well, a few genetic tests can be useful when making medical decisions, but such tests should be ordered only by medical professionals. Or if not, at least genetic counseling should be for free as patients need serious guidance when reading the results of their genomic variations. (Update: Navigenics provides free genetic counseling for all Health Compass members and 1 hour of free counseling for all Insight members. And you can order the tests through a medical professional or on your own.)
  • I think I can handle many things but it was almost impossible for me to understand which documents I have to send back to the lab with my saliva sample. A step-by-step video tutorial would be useful.

I’m thankful to the Team of Navigenics.com for showing me how their service works in action. I’m impressed and looking forward to seeing how they can make their service even better.

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22 Comments Post a comment
  1. This reminds me of when it was quite a popular thing to send in samples of your hair to be analyzed on a regular basis so they could tell you what is wrong and how to fix it. I don’t know, the Mayo Clinic is top notch, but there are a lot of variables in all of this. Suppose there is merit in the results and its good to know information that might alter or prevent an illness.

    March 7, 2009
  2. Great post Berci,

    Any thoughts on how you feel about this information being available to others?

    March 8, 2009
    • I would never make that kind of information public. It’s one of the most private kind of information ever.

      March 8, 2009
  3. Jewels #

    I told friends that genetic testing was going to be the future of medicine — all the way back in 2003.

    The old model of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” – whether you’re tall, thin, young, old, black or white, just isn’t ideal. No two people are exactly alike. Our genes are not alike. Our risks are not alike. And our treatments and prevention plans should be tailored to our personal needs. Period!

    March 9, 2009

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