By drawing on its large number of customers, 23andMe has been able to power studies that link diseases like depression to certain genetic loci, as GenomeWeb has reported.
In Nature Genetics earlier this month, researchers from 23andMe and Pfizer reported on a genome-wide association study of 75,607 individuals with a clinical diagnosis of depression and 231,747 healthy individuals that, in combination with analyses of previously published data, uncovered 15 loci associated with depression. While this won't directly lead to a genetic test for a disease, KQED Science notes that it will give researchers a better understanding of depression.
"This is becoming a common theme in genetic studies of complex diseases like major depression, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease," it adds. "Rather than leading to predictive genetic tests, the studies are bringing a better understanding of what causes the illness, opening up new approaches to treatment."
KQED Science also points out that 23andMe has been criticized for using people's genetic data for profit — it has entered into partnerships with multiple drug companies, providing them access to its database — but KQED says if "the collaborations do lead to new treatments for devastating diseases, some of that criticism may go by the wayside."