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Genome Exploration

Susan Young at MIT's Technology Review writes that when she received her personal genetic testing results from 23andMe, she didn't find anything "monumental in my report," though there were useful snippets of information contained in there. For instance, she says she now knows that she is sensitive to blood thinners and metabolizes caffeine slowly. 23andMe tells her that many people have reports like hers, with nothing major glaring out at them.

For many diseases, the report offers a range of risks, and such ranges, Young adds, can be difficult to interpret. And interpreting uncertain or tenuous relationships is why some critics oppose selling such tests directly to consumers. Proponents argue, though, that consumers should be given a bit more credit.

"Of the million DNA variants that 23andMe examines, fewer than 1,000 are part of the health report. The rest wait for evidence linking them to traits. … It would be a shame to restrict personal genetic tests now, before they have a chance to become more useful," Young writes. "Rather, consumers should be allowed to explore their genetic makeup to help figure out how the information can be used to make smarter medical decisions."