September 15, 2008

Facebook? MySpace? Why Not Go All Out! [8:07 am]

Spit Parties for Folks Who Want to Break Their Own DNA Code

COMPREHENSIVE DNA tests may one day be a normal part of medical care, but right now 23andMe’s efforts to make genetic testing an impulse buy disturbs many researchers.

“People think if you have money to spend on this, why not buy a test instead of a model train for Christmas,” said Dr. Alan Guttmacher, acting director of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health. “It can be neat and fun, but it can also have deep psychological implications, both for how you view yourself and how others view you, depending on who else has access to the information.”

Ms. Wojcicki and Linda Avey, the company’s other founder, say their chief goal is to advance science by compiling a database of genetic information that medical researchers can tap (while protecting customers’ anonymity). Customers cannot opt out of having their information anonymously shared, but they can refuse to participate in surveys focusing on specific traits.

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