DNA tests you take at home growing in popularity

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Despite the FDA stopping companies from giving certain results, take-at-home DNA tests are growing in popularity.

"They're really used for two different things," said UNF Associate Professor Dr. Matt Gilg. "A lot of people use them for ancestry, but more recently people have been using this to figure out potential medical problems."

Gilg is a genetics expert and teaches both undergrads and graduate students the intricacies of DNA. He says using these services for ancestry purposes is accurate, and can be an eye opener.

"It doesn't tell you exactly who your ancestors were but does give you an idea of the populations that contributed to your genome."

For instance, a few of us around First Coast News took the 23 and Me variety of DNA tests.

After a couple of weeks we got our results. It showed that Lewis Turner is 99% European -- no surprise there -- but for others who may be unsure about their background, it could be a major help.

"There's a different genetic signature from a person from Africa, from a person in Asia compared to a person in Europe," Gilg said.

However, the medical side of 23 and Me's results are a bit more controversial. The company used to tell you if you had a genetic predisposition to certain diseases.

For instance, if you were at an elevated risk of getting type-2 diabetes, or even Alzheimers.

However, the FDA has stepped in, now demanding companies like 23 and Me to stop advertising the accuracy of these results, and stop offering this service all together. The FDA says not enough research has been done.

The CEO of 23 and Me, Anna Wojcicki, said in a statement, "We stand behind our data that we return to customers - but we recognize that the FDA needs to be convinced of the quality of our data as well."

Wojcicki says 23 and Me will work with the FDA to make sure they can move forward with these results. We happen to take our tests before the FDA halted the medical results.

Turner's tests said he had an elevated risk of getting type-2 diabetes, something that runs in his family, but a lower risk of getting Alzheimers. It's results like these Gilg says people need to be careful with.

"Even if you're at an elevated risk for a certain condition, that doesn't mean you're going to get it," he said.

The tests typically run around $100 and involve giving a sample of saliva. You mail the tests back to the company and results are usually back within a few weeks.


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