Review of 23andMe
Whether you believe in knowing the ‘truth’ of your genetics or think it’s a worrisome trend for hypercondriacs, there is currently one market leader that is allowing normal people to make that decision: 23andMe. The genetic testing company is currently not allowed to run full panels in its native USA, but has now come to the UK & Europe (via a Dutch lab, we understand). We have been following the businesses growth over the last few years, so we’re very excited to get the opportunity to try out the service (as well as find out what it can tell us, which I will be sharing in the near future too).
While 23andMe doesn’t test and sequence the entire Genome, as this is still quite expensive for the average person (although costs are still coming down regularly). Instead, they have opted for SNP Genotyping where one million of the three billion strings of DNA are analysed, which is relatively inexpensive and still offers a wealth of insight. The results are broken down into 2 categories: health and ancestry (more details on what these cover in the image below).
I really have nothing to compare 23andMe too, but I know that the science is sound and that of all the arguments against the company since it’s creation not many have been against the accuracy of the data. More have questioned whether or not to put it in consumers hands, which is another debate for another blog (which will likely be part of my ‘23andMe: The Results‘ blog coming soon too).
Signing up to the site and arranging payment was simple enough, which meant that in just a few days I received my ‘saliva kit’ (see image below). Unsurprisingly, all you have to do is spit in the relevant parts of the kit – not necessarily quite as easy as you might think – up to the appropriate level, which was actually a surprisingly high volume of ones own gob to produce!
Then you pack everything back away again and send it off to the lab in the pre-paid packaging they provide. It really is that simple! 23andMe’s regular updates that they’ve received the package and where it is in the testing pipeline are all reassuring while you wait too, helping to temper the occasionally crazy thoughts that might go through your head about what you’ve got lurking in your DNA!
Once the data did come back (you can find out more about this in my ‘23andMe: The Results‘ post, coming soon) they were comprehensively explained, while also being easy to understand too. Everything is accessible through your own portal on the site and you can keep going back to check whether they’ve added new tests or additional insight too, which is fantastic!
In terms of cost, the full test currently costs £125 in the UK ($199 in the US), with a 10% discount for any additional test you buy too, in case the whole family wants to get involved. This seems like a fair price for the level of insight and amount of peace of mind the test could give you.
All in all, the 23andMe service and test really was everything I hoped it would be. The test itself was simple, easy to do and more importantly hard to get wrong! From that the wealth of knowledge it gives you is really quite astonishing for the price. Whether you want this level of knowledge (or whether you think ‘ordinary people’ should have it) is a topic for another day, but the fact is 23andMe is here to stay and it’s really good at what it does.