Recreational Genomics

Recreational Genomics

Over the past five years, as the price of DNA testing kits has dropped and their quality has improved, the phenomenon of -'recreational genomics-' has...

Over the past five years, as the price of DNA testing kits has dropped and their quality has improved, the phenomenon of "recreational genomics" has taken off.

According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, nearly 8 million people worldwide, but mostly in the United States, have tested their DNA through kits, typically costing $99 or less, from such companies as 23andMe, and Family Tree DNA, says a report in The Washington Post.

The most popular DNA-deciphering approach, autosomal DNA testing, looks at genetic material inherited from both parents and can be used to connect customers to others in a database who share that material.

The results can let you see exactly what stuff you're made from - as well as offer the opportunity to find previously unknown relatives, adds the Post. Freedictionary defines recreational genomics as the assessment of DNA markers – mitochondrial DNA in women and Y-DNA in men – to determine: (1) Paternal and maternal lineage; (2) Biogeographical and ethnic origin – European, Native American, African, Asian, etc; and 3) Human migrations of particular interest to anthropologists. Researchers in an article at wonder: “Complex diseases are being studied, sometimes with monogenic subsets but mainly with multifactorial etiology.

What used to be a geneticists nightmare was the success of the year 2007: the unravelling of the genetic basis of type II diabetes at a high pace. Valorization into genetic tests directly available to consumers through the internet, followed rapidly. Are your personal risk profile and tailored prevention advice now for sale? Has science progressed in a never precedented way, or are we witnessing a hype of naive and commercial hopes and beliefs?”

Although billions of dollars have been invested in human genetics in the last three decades, very few genetic diseases can be identified from a simple organic sample (inner cheek cells, a hair, a drop of blood, etc). Genes that cause breast and ovary cancers, Huntington disease, tyrosinemia, family cholesterol and other diseases can be identified after a chromosomal analysis. “But for cardiovascular disease and the majority of cancers, the information taken from our cells is insufficient,” cautions Williams-Jones in an article at

Williams-Jones has labeled some genetic testing companies as recreational genomics: “One company offers to evaluate the potential risk of 20 or so hereditary diseases. This is completely unreasonable. Given what some people may do with this information, I find these tests a great concern.”

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