Genetic Future

Those interested in the commercial, technical or ethical issues around the emerging industry of personal genomics now have a chance to put their questions to the co-founder of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki. The NY Times blog Freakonomics is inviting readers to add their questions to the comments section of this post; Wojcicki will respond in a later post.

The questions are already pouring in: one reader asks if Wojcicki believes that there is a genetic component to intelligence; another asks for advice on getting a tattoo made from his 23andMe raw data; another reader is looking for a job.
This is the first question that popped into my head:

Currently your risk profiles are based purely on genetic data, but all complex diseases also have an environmental component to risk that often outweighs the genetics. When do you plan to start incorporating environmental variables (and other sources of information, such as family history) into your risk predictions?

‘ll let you know if I get an answer. Any other readers are invited to repost their own questions in the comments section here for discussion.


  1. #1 Carmen Gonzalez
    August 3, 2009

    Do you see the possibility of linking patients for the best fit with clinical trials based on their genome, aiding them to find ideal alternative treatments (or just to promote science)?

  2. #2 Russell
    August 3, 2009

    When will 23andMe provide its customers with SNP data that indicates their APO e4 status? Currently, 23andMe resembles an auto company that sells cars lacking the engine. The wheels are great. The upholstery is nice. The radio works fine.

    But people want the engine in the car they buy. I’m registered at 23andMe, ready to plunk down by money, as soon as it gets real about providing the meat as well as selling the sizzle.

  3. #3 Texas Reader
    August 3, 2009

    Like Russell I don’t think it’s worth spending the money yet at 23andMe. I’d like to know my APO e4 status.

    According to wikipedia: “Thus, the genotype most at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and at earlier age is ApoE 4,4. The ApoE 3,4 genotype is at increased risk, though not to the degree that those homozygous for ApoE 4 are. The genotype ApoE 3,3 is considered at normal risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The genotype ApoE 2,3 is considered at less risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, people with both a copy of the 2 allele and the 4 allele, ApoE 2,4, are at normal risk similar to the ApoE 3,3 genotype.”

  4. #4 Pradeep
    August 4, 2009

    SNPs Vs Gene Expression for Personal Genomics
    Well, lot has been said and discussed about SNPs and Disease association. At the end of the day, it is all about how much that would make sense for the customer to evaluate the disease risk or onset of the diseases.

    Can we also do the same stuff, through Gene Expression? Taking the expression profiles of a cancer patient over the regular period and predict the expression levels over time to say what could be the disease risk? Perhaps, this would be a better way of doing it, if we have the Expression database avilable.

    I welcome your thoughts. Or, help me finding any literature available comparing the SNP Vs Gene Expression for Personal Genomics.

  5. #5 Luke
    August 4, 2009

    Further to your question, Daniel: if they are looking at environment, do they then take into account that people who buy DTC genetic tests are significantly more likely to be health-conscious people in the first place?

  6. #6 Paul Jones
    August 4, 2009

    My question is how are they going to defeat the Luddites and the medical guild?

  7. #7 Russell
    August 4, 2009

    It seems the NYT moderators don’t like the question about ApoE. I posted it at the NYT article, but it has yet to appear. Daniel, if you have any weight to throw, I would encourage you to throw it behind that question.

  8. #8 Daniel MacArthur
    August 5, 2009

    Hi Russell,

    It looks like they’ve accepted some other reasonably tricky questions, so my first guess would be that no-one’s got around to approving it yet rather than assuming it’s been rejected. When did you post it?

  9. #9 elle stephens
    August 9, 2009

    Dear Anne I love 23andme! It has been a real learning tool…..a little bit like genetics for dummies made easy…. Recently I took a health survey regarding a family history for breast cancer. The history asked about my maternal side and paternal side but never asked about me and you have my data. Since I am a breast cancer survivor and my data may be helpful I wondered why this was not asked.

    Thanks, elle

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