23andMe is a recently-launched personal genome service that allows users to learn more about themselves through the Web. First, users purchase a kit for $1,000 through the 23andMe website. After receiving the sample, lab professionals extract DNA from cells in the client’s saliva. That client’s DNA is then chopped up into shorter strands and copied many times via a process called amplification. Next, DNA is washed over a small microchip-like device that contains short strands of synthetic DNA. The synthetic DNA fragments latch onto the pieces of the client’s DNA that are a complementary match.
Then a laser-scanning step reveals which strands of synthetic DNA are stuck to the client’s DNA to determine a genotype. All said and done, 23andMe analyzes nearly 600,000 data points in a client’s genome. Clients each receive their own private login, and they can then use web-based interactive tools to explore their genome. They can discover their origins, learn what the latest genetic findings may mean for them, and connect genetically with friends, family, and others across the globe who have used the service. Sort of like genetic social networking.
This is just one more example of high-tech scientific research going mainstream and direct-to-consumer. We’re guessing that these types of genetic-reading services are just the beginning of an exciting new age of “personalized medicine.” Learn more at 23andMe.