- DNA As Crystal Ball: Buyer Beware (Newsweek): A genome-wide association study identified a new gene variant associated with Alzheimer’s disease but it turned out clinically it’s not useful.
“Adding these genes to traditional risk factors, such as age and sex, does nothing to aid prediction” of whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s, she told me. “Knowing your genetic status will not help. We may still be in the Stone Age when it comes to gene-based prediction.”
The United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce today launched an investigation into direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, sending letters to three prominent DTC companies: 23andMe, Pathway Genomics and Navigenics.
- 23andme: A detailed review of the data the blogger just received from 23andMe.
The family said they received no medical counseling here and are making their own conclusions. One comment made is that the parents stated they will probably be using more pharmaceuticals, interesting.
A patient analyzes her own 23andMe data:
Berlin et al. published a very interesting paper in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics about DNATwist which is an online tool for teaching middle and high school students about pharmacogenomics.
DNATwist is a Web-based learning tool that explains pharmacogenomics concepts to middle- and high-school students. Its features include (i) a focus on drug responses of interest to teenagers (e.g., alcohol intolerance), (ii) reusable graphical interfaces that reduce extension costs, and (iii) explanations of molecular and cellular drug responses. In testing, students found the tool and topic understandable and engaging. The tool is being modified for use at the Tech Museum of Innovation in California.
I couldn’t believe what I read in the newest CNN headline. Let’s see what happened:
At the Chongqing Children’s Palace, experts are hoping to revolutionize child-rearing with the help of science. About 30 children aged 3 to 12 years old and their parents are participating in a new program that uses DNA testing to identify genetic gifts and predict the future.
The test is conducted by the Shanghai Biochip Corporation. Scientists claim a simple saliva swab collects as many as 10,000 cells that enable them to isolate eleven different genes. By taking a closer look at the genetic codes, they say they can extract information about a child’s IQ, emotional control, focus, memory, athletic ability and more.
Let’s be clear here, they analyze 11 genes for 880$.
Not to determine, but to at least predict such features as IQ, focus, emotional control or height, you need to analyze not 11 but significantly more genes. And in such features, the envorinmental factors play a major role (sometimes bigger than genetics). So determining capablitities based on 11 genes is not hard, but impossible. From another point of view, even if you find many genes predicting the child will be tall, plus the environmental factors are positive as well, not all tall players are NBA stars.
I believe it was a clear advertisement of a Chinese biotechnology firm trying to prove that they can do the same thing as Navigenics or 23andMe.
So be skeptic when you read such headlines…
It seems today I serve as an aggregator but I also found 3 genetics-related articles that you might find interesting.
Aull is scouring her own genes in pursuit of a potentially lethal mutation that she may have inherited from her parents – and she has transformed her bedroom closet into a makeshift scientific laboratory to conduct the hunt.
The 23-year-old MIT graduate uses tools that fit neatly next to her shoe rack. There is a vintage thermal cycler she uses to alternately heat and cool snippets of DNA, a high-voltage power supply scored on eBay, and chemicals stored in the freezer in a box that had once held vegan “bacon” strips.
Once upon a time, researchers knew that DNA contained four nucleotides: A, T, C and G. Then they found a fifth. And now they’ve found a sixth.
The discovery helps to explain why species with very similar genetics can be so different. Humans and chimpanzees famously share 96 per cent of their DNA.
In 2002, Richard Lifton, a geneticist at Yale who specializes in genetic analysis of human outliers–people with extreme phenotypes–discovered that a mutation in a gene called LDL-related receptor protein 5 was responsible for the man’s high bone density, a condition shared by about half of his family.
April, 25 is officially the DNA Day when we write about DNA-relates issues. Yesterday, I was offline but now I would like to mention a few articles that focused on DNA on this important day.
In recognition of National DNA Day on April 25, the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) will be participating in several community outreach iniciatíva to promote the importance of knowing one’s family health history and consulting with a genetic counselor who can help answer questions about genetic testing.
Blogs about the DNA Day:
A few days ago, I wrote about a new blog that focuses on tutorials about molecular biology. Labtutorials in Biology is going to be a unique blog providing step-by-step tutorials in molecular biology and descriptions that can be really useful for students.
The first posts:
Now the author, Bálint L. Bálint, posted new instructions:
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.
I sent my saliva sample back to their laboratory this January and received the results in about 3-4 weeks.
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:
They tell me my risk compared to the whole population.
And how that medical condition is affected by environmental and genetic factors.
And if I’m interested in the particular single nucleotide polymorphism they analyzed, I can check the details.
- 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.
- 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.