Time Magazine has announced the 50 best inventions of 2008 and at its top is a DNA test called 23andMe. It's not as well-known as the iPhone, Time's best invention of 2007, but if 23andMe catches on, it will change how much we know about ourselves, our families, and possibly, about others.
Created by Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey, 23andMe is a mail order, self-administered DNA test! For $399, you receive a 23andMe kit containing a funnel and cap. You spit into the funnel, cap it, and return it to 23andMe's special laboratory for analysis. In four to six weeks, you will receive an email from the company, letting you know how to find your results online.
The number 23 stands for the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in the human genetic sequence. However, the actual analysis of your saliva sample is done on nearly 600,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), that are scattered across the genetic sequence. 23andMe also analyzes a few thousand places on the mitochondrial DNA.
23andMe, coincidentally, can provide you with you with information on your predisposition for 23 conditions that have genetic markers; however, this number is growing, as more research data is compiled for other diseases and conditions. Currently, the list of conditions includes age-related macular degeneration, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, resistance to HIV/AIDS, and diabetes I and II.
In addition to the known conditions with genetic predispositions, the client also has access to research on 68 other conditions being studied, but not analyzed on the DNA test. 23andMe also provides an analysis of a client's ancestry!
Ms. Wojcicki and Ms. Avey have had some famous clients so far, including Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch. They may be included in the funding of 23andMe, but we do know that Ms. Wojcicki's husband, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has played a large role in funding the project.
sources: Time Magazine, 23andMe
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