Do-It-Yourself Genetic Tests

Since the first personal genetic tests became available on the Internet three years ago, critics have raised concerns about their potential impact on patients and families, along with their accuracy and test-makers' commitment to respecting customers' privacy. But, if test companies are mainly interested in selling genetic databases, they may be in for a rude awakening.

LONDON – If you were hoping to pick up a DNA kit along with your shampoo from the drugstore, you would be out of luck. The United States Food and Drug Administration recently warned the giant pharmacy chain Walgreen’s to think twice before stocking personal genetic testing kits. As an FDA spokeswoman said, “These kits have not been proven safe, effective or accurate, and patients could be making medical decisions based on data from a test that hasn’t been validated by the FDA.”

Since the first personal genetic tests became available on the Internet three years ago, critics have raised concerns about their potential impact on patients and families, along with their accuracy. Some say that the tests are “genetic horoscopes,” and just about as scientific. Such misgivings have led to personal genetic tests being banned in several US states, as well as in European countries like France and Germany.

Personal genetic tests vary from one manufacturer to another. At one end of the market, there are companies offering to test for recessive red-hair genes or sexual chemistry. A firm called Scientific Match tests a small number of genes related to immune response, promising that it can put you in touch with partners whose genetic make-up will promise you a better sex life and your children a high natural immune response.

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