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The Scoop on At-Home Genetic Testing

Ever wonder where your ancestral lineage derives from? At-home genetic testing, such as 23andMe, is discussed in this article.

The age of the at-home genetic tests has dawned upon this generation, becoming the new hip trend that is spreading like rapid-fire. With the simplicity of spitting into a tube, one can discover their familial ancestry, identify traits of one’s bodies, and even determine the presence of certain genes– all without having to consult a doctor. The vast implementation of such point-of-care products has important implications regarding the future of medicine, specifically patient care. Is it possible that this single idea can translate into a world where all lab tests are done through a third party?

The History of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing, specifically DNA testing, has been a relatively new subject. Starting around the 1920s, scientists discovered the four, distinct blood types—A, B, AB, and O. The identification of certain antigens on the blood eventually led to the rudimentary paternity test; since blood types are inherited, people were able to narrow down the traits of their fathers based upon their own blood type. The relative ease for a scientific test to help identify family members created a demand for more instances of genetic testing. In the 1930s, scientists discovered more cell surface markers that were crucial in identifying people. In the 1980s, the restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis was able to create DNA profiles, which was used to create more sophisticated paternity tests based upon the similarities between parents and their children. Throughout time, the technology regarding the genetic testing capabilities has multiplied to the point where is it now feasible for individuals to test themselves in subjects like genealogy.

The Creation of At-Home Genetic Testing: 23andMe Technology

The creation of at-home genetic testing initially started around 2006 with the well-known company 23andMe. 23andMe is a private personal genomics and biotechnology company that analyzes DNA and uses it to trace ancestry. 23andMe uses conventional methods in its genotyping process. The basic methodology is cited below:

  1. Extracting DNA from saliva specimen delivered by consumer
  2. Performing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to amplify DNA
  3. DNA is cut into smaller pieces and placed on a microarray
  4. The beads on the microarray contain probes which match a genetic variant and fluorescent dye labels
  5. The probes that attach to the DNA fragments are identified based on fluorescent dye and corresponding variant
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Photo from 23andMe

This invention is an important stepping stone for future directions in medicine. Already, the data regarding a person’s health can be accessed with as little as $97.00. With the onset of the technological age, such accessibility towards information is increasingly valuable. While this service is able to circumvent traditional methods for getting test results, it still relies upon a third party resource. However, its initial successes as a marketable produce places this science on the step toward the path of point-of-care in reaching patients or consumers in their bedside.

The Future of At-Home Kits in Medicine

The creation of At-Home Genetic tests are ways to involve people with their own health in a direct manner. Especially at a time when medical costs and coverage are increasing each year, more and more patients are being left out of the important process of getting checkups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

However, there is still work to be done. Services that those like 23andMe provide are a roundabout way for getting patient information. The future of genetic testing (and even the broader at-home testing realm) is bringing the testing to a location near the patient. This will not only promote patient accessibility, but also afforadable care and rapid detection and diagnoses. The market for such products is promising; until the next generation of scientists can find a way to incorporate technical studies into ease-of-access methods, the complexity of subjects like genealogy is best handled by professionals in safe, laboratory conditions.


References:

  1. “23andMe Genotyping.” 23andMe Customer Care, customercare.23andme.com/hc/en-us/articles/202904610-How-does-23andMe-genotype-my-DNA-.
  2. 23andMe. “The Science Behind 23andMe.” 23andMe, http://www.23andme.com/genetic-science/.
  3. Cauchi, Dick, and Alise Garcia. “Health Insurance: Premiums and Increases.” Same Sex Marriage Laws and Regulations by State, http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/health-insurance-premiums.aspx.
  4. “History of DNA Testing.” DNA Diagnostics Center, DNA Diagnostics Center, dnacenter.com/history-dna-testing/.

Photo Reference:

  1. https://www.23andme.com/

My name is Michelle Mai and I am a rising senior at Century High School. My passion in the various STEM fields, most notably being science research, has driven me to be a sixth-year participant in the regional, state science fairs, and the 2018 Intel ISEF conference this past May. While science fair and research projects are large parts of my scientific career thus far, I also am the president of my high school's STEM Society, a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and the founder of the Run for Ronald community fundraiser. In the near future, I hope to pursue a career in medicine and medical-related research to explore the exciting discoveries in the medical field for the improvement of the human quality of life.

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