Words With Letters Sciona
Words With Letters Sciona – From Our Field Guide Gene Reading Companies like 23andMe promise to read your genes like a crystal ball, but their predictions are murky
Every field of science has a day when the anticipation of a big announcement fills the air with palpable energy. For those in the know, it’s the kind of upbeat excitement that makes the whole world delightful. Colors seem brighter, passers-by kinder, and ordinary life has a musicality—all because after years of painstaking and unrecognized research, results that could change the world are finally being presented.
Words With Letters Sciona
One such day for genetics was 16 years ago. The Human Genome Project, an international initiative led by the US National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy to sequence the entire human genome, was almost complete after 13 years, two years ahead of schedule (paywall) and under budget, a rarity in the world. science.
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It was April 15, 2003, and scientists thought that with this new base pair map of every person’s DNA, they could pinpoint the exact origins of medical conditions, physical traits, and even certain behavioral patterns. Healthcare providers could finally abandon their “one-size-fits-all” approach and embrace personalized medicine, offering patients treatments or preventative measures that are as unique as their genomes.
But a decade and a half later, most people have yet to see the benefits of sequencing the human genome. Although some forms of personalized medicine are currently available, such as CAR-T therapy for certain types of cancer, they are expensive and not yet applicable or accessible to everyone. It turns out that sequencing the genome told us a lot about the structure of human DNA, but much less about people, at least so far.
Meanwhile, consumers grew impatient. The hype surrounding the 2003 announcement promised that the wealth of knowledge locked in their chambers could reveal secrets about their health and family history.
A new market emerged to fill the void. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies now offer to read our genes like tea leaves to tell us about our ancestry, health risks, and even what type of wine we’d enjoy most. Although they claim to be backed by the power of objective science, in reality the information our DNA can give us is still largely unclear.
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Their rise was slow and imperceptible at first. The earliest DTC genetic testing company was founded in 1996, before most people paid much attention to genetics. University Diagnostics was a small mail-order company based in the UK (and largely funded by University College London) that promised to assess whether or not customers had the genetic mutations that cause cystic fibrosis. It was advertised in Cosmopolitan.
At the same time, the Genetics and IVF Institute in the US began offering screening for mutations in certain genes called BRCA1/2, which researchers had identified as markers that put a person at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. He slowly started placing advertisements in newspapers. The Virginia-based company was forced to stop offering these tests when a clinical testing company called Myriad Genetics patented the gene in May 1998 and issued a cease-and-desist letter. (The Genetics and IVF Institute still exists, but focuses on fertility services.)
Things accelerated around the turn of the century. In 2000, Houston, Texas-based FamilyTreeDNA became the first company to sell DNA tests that it claimed would help users trace their genetic origins and find family members online. In 2001, Sciona, a UK-based company, began selling genetic tests that it claimed could tell customers what they should eat based on their DNA, a use of genetics that had no, and still does not have, reliable data.
And by 2002, the genealogy website Ancestry.com launched its first iteration of AncestryDNA, which would grow into the largest DTC genetic testing service in the world today.
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Now, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy reports that there are 32 DTC genetic testing companies that offer DNA readings to customers who want them.
23andMe, perhaps the most common name among them, launched in 2006 and came to public attention in 2007 with a series of promotional parties — fancy promotional cocktail parties where wealthy guests were encouraged to hack up phlegm for testing. by the company. At the time, the tests cost $999 and included 14 reports, 10 of which were health-related, including the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and celiac disease. Some could also report health characteristics such as eye color. (The New York Times reported (paywall) that a party in New York was attended by Harvey Weinstein, Ivanka Trump and Rupert Murdoch.)
But he did so without oversight from clients’ health care providers and without approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In late 2013, the FDA sent the company cease-and-desist letters, prohibiting it from continuing to provide customer health information. (23andMe was still allowed to perform non-health tests.) In 2015, the FDA authorized 23andMe to provide information to consumers about whether they have certain disease-causing mutations that can be passed on to their children, starting with Bloom syndrome. . For 2017, the company was allowed to submit its 10 health reports once again. This time, however, it had to include a clear disclaimer saying that nothing the company said should be taken as actual medical advice. (Starting this year, 23andMe will be able to offer an 11th health test that assesses genetic risk for type 2 diabetes.)
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By 2024, the total market is expected to be worth more than $2.5 billion worldwide (pdf). About 26 million people have already had some form of genetic testing, and that number is expected to rise to 100 million in the next two years. In addition to giants like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, there are third-party databases like GEDmatch.com that allow people to upload their genetic data from other companies and use the tools. Most are free and cast a wider net to find family members, explore more chromosome differences, or even test if their parents are (unbeknownst to them) related.
$19.95: Nebula’s cheapest DTC genetic test on the market that sequences your entire genome (requires $6.99/month)
To understand the DTC genetic testing industry, we need to take a short walk back to 10th grade biology class to talk about genetics. (Don’t worry, it’s relatively painless.)
If your body were a house, your genome would be the architectural plan. But instead of blueprints, our genome is made up of DNA—long, twisted molecules made of chains of four types of protein (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine) surrounded by a backbone made of sugar. Each protein has an opposite side (A goes with T; C goes with G) to give it the appearance of a tiny, twisted biological ladder. These bound proteins form base pairs. Hundreds to millions of base pairs make up a single gene, which scientists call the “functional unit of heredity” because they all have a job (although many of them are still unknown). The order of base pairs in a gene determines exactly how it works. In total, we have approximately 6 billion base pairs, stored mainly on 46 chromosomes (23 from the mother and 23 from the father) and a little in the mitochondria of our body cells.
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We have approximately 25,000 genes that provide instructions for specific tasks, such as telling cells when to grow and reproduce and when to produce certain proteins. Then there are the big bits of DNA that don’t seem to code for anything in particular, but seem to influence things like our height and skin and eye color.
Every cell in your body—except your gametes—contains all of your DNA. Different types of cells refer to different parts of your genome. Pardon the confusing metaphor, it’s like your genome is a cookbook, and different types of cells have different pages open to it, each showing a unique recipe for making things like skin cells, heart cells, blood cells, and so on.
For the most part, each person has roughly the same genetic blueprint: the differences between us come from a small subset of variations in about 0.1% of our DNA. In other words, we all basically live in the same house, where the variations are essentially the equivalent of different shower faucets or cabinet handles. (Other factors, such as the air we breathe, the food we eat, and even the way our parents lived can also cause some differences.)
Since all of our cells contain all of our DNA, it is fairly easy for companies or researchers to collect DNA for analysis. A simple swab on the cheek is enough to take a saliva sample.
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In a medical context, doctors have figured out how to read our body patterns, usually with the goal of assessing the risk of certain inherited conditions, such as Huntington’s disease, or diagnosing a rare genetic disease. Doctors or genetic counselors order these types of tests if a person already has the disease or knows there is a family history of rare diseases. Depending on health