Genetics firm 23andMe has announced the launch of its Personal Genome Service (PGS) designed to give UK residents access to personal genetic information.
The £125 genetics test which can be purchased from the company’s website has the potential to offer over 100 reports relating to the user’s health, trait and ancestry information.
The PGS is not sold as a diagnostic, but includes results for genes associated with certain inherited conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis or Sickle Cell Anaemia, a 23andMe statement said.
“Like our knowledge of genetics - the implications of the results keep changing - so don’t take the predictions too seriously
King’s College professor Tim Spector
The PGS test is also designed to reveal risk factors for certain diseases or conditions such as blood clotting, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, and how a user’s body may respond to specific medications.
“23andMe’s mission is to ensure that individuals can personally access, understand and benefit from the human genome,” said 23andMe chief executive officer Anne Wojcicki.
According to 23andMe, the UK’s revolutionary 100,000 Genomes Project, which was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in August, made the UK a “priority country” in which to launch its PGS.
“The UK is a world leader in genomics and we are very excited to offer a product specifically for UK customers,” Wojcicki said.
Response to today’s announcement has, however, divided opinion.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said: “I am in favour of any way to get the UK public more involved in science and genetics - and this is a great way to get educated in the power of genetics as well as its limitations.
“Like our knowledge of genetics - the implications of the results keep changing - so don’t take the predictions too seriously.”
Whereas Shirley Hodgson, emeritus professor of cancer genetics, St. George’s Hospital, said: “This type of test is very open to misunderstanding.
“The results can indicate very slight alterations of risk for certain traits or diseases which can be misinterpreted unless explained in detail by a medical practitioner who understands such information.”
Results from existing 23andMe customers, however, indicate that only 4% had requested additional testing or made a special appointment with their doctor to discuss the results, the company said.