With seven billion people in the world, there’s a lot that makes us different from one another– wealth, geographic location, family, interests. But our common ground? The ultimate equalizer of humanity? As Anne Wojicicki states, quite simply, it’s our susceptible health.
Wojicicki, the founder of 23andMe, a genetic-testing company, wants to empower people by providing a blueprint of their health. From genetic risk factors to inherited conditions to traits, Wojicicki thinks people deserve to know their makeup.
And as the interest in rare diseases continues to grow, a test like this can clue people into conditions they could be prone to, and perhaps become the first step to preventing the negative impacts of these illnesses.
When someone registers for 23andMe, they’re sent a testing kit. Then, all it takes is a little bit of spit, a plastic tube, and a stint in a lab before an email is sent with results.
People credit the product with changing their lives– for the better. Many customers of 23andMe embrace knowing their potential fate, such as…
Paul Dodds, 69, British Colombia, Canada
To Paul Dodds, the man he knew to be his father, come to find out, was not. When Dodds’ “father” died, he called his Uncle Eric, who asked him, “Paul, don’t you know he’s not your father?”
His mother told him nothing. All he had to go off of was a photograph of an American GI. For many years, Dodds searched for the man in the photo. Then, turning to 23andMe, he found out that he had a first-cousin match.
His cousin was Susan Schwartz. She told him there was only one man who could possibly be his biological father, and that was her uncle. She put him in touch with her cousin, who turned out to be his sister. The experience, Dodds said, has his “mind at ease.”
Donna Abrahart, 55, Portsmouth
Two of Donna Abrahart’s three children are diagnosed with severe illnesses—ankylosing spondylitis, which rheumatoid arthritis of the spine, and Cushing disease. Both illnesses had her begging the question: “Is there something lurking in their genes?”
Enter 23andMe. A spit swab in the test tube revealed that Donna had the gene mutation that can lead to cystic fibrosis, making clear why two of her cousins had passed from the disease at a young age.
For Abrahart, the test gave her peace of mind. “I think something like this is helpful for the medical profession,” she said. “… To me, anything you can pass over should be helpful. It allows [doctors] to do their job.”
Mrs. X, Edinburgh
For Mrs. X, her results bore a huge revelation—she had sensitivity to Warfarin, an anticoagulant drug given to stop blood clots under anesthetic. This made sense. Mrs. X had bled significantly after undergoing a mastectomy and had the same problem after a hysterectomy.
“I think if you can prevent things that are preventable, and if people can tailor your medical treatment to your own genetics—surely that has to be a positive,” she said.
See Telegraph.co.uk’s full story to read more on these personal experiences using 23andme.
Share in the comments below if you’ve ever tried a gene testing kit. What did you like or dislike?