Are Genetic Testing Sites the New Social Networks? - The New York Times
At-home genetic testing services have gained significant traction in the past few years. 23andMe, which costs $99, has over five million customers, according to the company; AncestryDNA (currently $69), over 10 million.
The companies use their large databases to match willing participants with others who share their DNA. In many cases, long-lost relatives are reuniting, becoming best friends, travel partners, genealogical resources or confidantes.
The result is a more layered version of what happened when Facebook first emerged and out-of-touch friends and family members found one another. Children of long-ago casual sperm donors are finding their fathers. Adoptees are bonding to biological family members they’ve been searching for their entire lives.
The Genetic Global Village
Others who have their DNA tested are forming relationships not with specific people, but with their family’s places of origin.
One example is Leah Madison, 32, an education outreach coordinator for the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev. She was planning trips to Peru and Korea when she learned a year and a half ago from 23andMe that her family came from Greece, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula.
Over the winter she and her father went to the Iberian Peninsula for two weeks. She felt an ineluctable connection to the people as she ate their bread masterpieces, toured buildings by Antoni Gaudí and danced to flamenco music.
“I had a piece of paper that tells me I’m from Spain,” Ms. Madison said. “But then I went there and I noticed all these people have curly hair, and maybe that is where mine comes from?” Now she feels compelled to visit the other places as well.
Perhaps the most frustrating reality is when users don’t have any known connections at all. This can happen to people in certain ethnic groups, including Latinos and Asians, that thus far have fewer people using the services and a smaller database.
“Diversity in genetic research is a global problem,” said Joanna Mountain, the senior director of Research at 23andMe, adding that the company is offering free testing in some countries to begin to rectify that. “The results for Hispanics and Asians aren’t there yet, but they are coming,” said Jenn Utley, a family historian at Ancestry (the parent company of AncestryDNA). “The database keeps growing.”
#Génomique #Données_personnelles #Familles #23andme