Entering the personal genomics era

Well, I’ve gone and done it. Daniel at Genetic Future pointed to the recent 23andme deep discount and we (as in my husband and I) decided to take the plunge. We ordered four kits.

We expect the kits within a couple days, then in a few weeks we’ll have our results. I’ve only been mildly interested in this for myself and was sort of in the back of my head thinking I’d wait till full genome sequencing got down to under 1,000. For our children, that would be another story.

What do I expect to gain from this (I’ve written about this before)?

As for me and my husband, I doubt we will find anything we don’t already know. As the recent paper suggests, much I might be able to learn from a clinical perspective I will already know pretty well from my family history and from common sense. I have family history of heart disease, my grandmother having several, my paternal father and my very healthy paternal uncle dying at 55 of a heart attack. Hypertension and prostate cancer also run deep into the roots of my family. Luckily so does longevity. I doubt I’ll learn anything knew from the test though I might be surprised. As to family ancestry, that too is quite well established. On my maternal side, we’ve pretty much exhausted genealogy search back 500 years: English, Scottish and a tad bit of German. On my paternal side we also have pretty well-delineated family history: German, English, Native American (Mattaponi) Irish, and possible African. In fact, we traced the English side back to the Danelaw, most likely the Norse origin of my surname. So, it might pick up some little surprises and perhaps a few roots I didn’t know, but I’m not expected anything major. Though it’d be interesting to confirm family stories and some research that suggests my grandmother’s native ancestry had some African intermarriage. The same is all true of my husband, health issues and ancestry (his parents are Mormons, what’d one expect? :).

Where the real information is to be had is our daughters, both adopted. Our eldest daughter is of African-American descent, and though we know a bit about her ancestry from the birth mother (creole?), it is sketchy. The same is true of her family’s health history, sketchy at best. Our youngest daughter is mixed race. We know next to nothing about her racial or ethnic backgrounds nor or family’s health history. For their sake and ours, this information might turn out to be useful and interesting.

It of course raises some ethical issues (how much do we disclose to our daughters and when? Do we make this decision for them now? Or wait?). We decided the benefits far outweigh any costs.

So we wait for the kits and I prepare myself to learn more about analyzing the data when it comes in. An interesting exercise both professionally (how best to interpret and teach others to?) and personally (what do we learn?).

I’ll write a few more updates going forward (though won’t be as brave as the Genomes UnZipped authors :D).

3 thoughts on “Entering the personal genomics era

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Entering the personal genomics era | The OpenHelix Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Mary

    I’m going to be interested in your perspective on this. I was having a conversation on this topic with someone outside our field and mentioned what you did about how family history is currently pretty much sufficient. But she told me she was adopted and had none of that information. So I thought in her case it was possibly more informative than average.

    I have no doubts that well-educated, insured individuals of certain/defined parentage will be fine with the outcomes of this and don’t have much to risk from public disclosure of the information. I’m just not sure that’s the case for everyone.

    I’m also curious to know if pedigree tools can handle two dads–I want to see that :)

  3. Pingback: 23andMe Scan: what I plan to find out | The OpenHelix Blog

Comments are closed.