Health checks: what does 23andme claim it can do?

For £125, 23andMe promises to use genotyping technology to analyse DNA in your saliva and reveal a variety of characteristics. While it cannot diagnose disease, it can reveal whether someone possesses a recessive genetic variant of 43 hereditary conditions, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia, and any of 11 genetic risk factors for diseases, such as hereditary breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

It can also expose 38 physical traits common to a person’s family, such as ear wax type, hair curl and even pain sensitivity. The likeliness of someone having a bad reaction to drugs that treat conditions such hepatitis C and epilepsy can be measured as well.

The data can also be used in genealogical research to establish facts about a client’s ancestry. It can determine facts such as what percentage of their DNA comes from different populations and how closely related they are to Neanderthals. They are also able to match clients to their relatives and are currently working with MyHeritage to create a family-tree tool.

If you are a frequent smoker, the company says the results of tests will help people to learn how their body would respond to diet and exercise, and whether they are predisposed to be a sprinter or endurance athlete.

The Personal Genome Service, it claims, will also look for genes that may be factors for conditions such as blood clotting.

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