At Home DNA Testing Kits from HomeDNA
Imagine a world where home DNA testing kits for hereditary diseases don’t exist anymore because hereditary diseases were eliminated decades ago by using gene editing at the germline. In the future, parents who decide to conceive a child will meet with a “birth counselor” who logs into their cloud-based gene editing platform owned by the largest “biology company” in the world – Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN). The child’s entire DNA profile is read into the cloud in about 45 seconds and a slew of options are presented to the soon-to-be parents. There are certain edits that are legally required, for example things like Down syndrome or albinism. Anything related to attractiveness or a person’s features cannot be legally modified. Once the base modifications have been made, IQ optimizations can be purchased in much the same way you would invest in your child’s education. Once the process is complete, a 150-page guide is produced which details all aspects of what the child is to expect in their life based on all their genetic traits.
While that’s a pretty far-fetched vision of the future, there are already companies today that sell at home DNA testing kits that uncover actionable information contained within your DNA so that you can optimize various aspects of your life. The information has to be actionable, otherwise it’s about as useless as a horoscope. One company that’s putting out a whole slew of tests now is HomeDNA.
Founded in 1995, Ohio company DNA Diagnostic Center (DDC) claims to be the “most accredited DNA testing lab in the world” and has “the largest network of certified facilities in North America“. Since inception, the company has analyzed 10 million DNA samples from 168 countries offering tests for paternity, immigration, and other family relationships. In 2015, they were acquired by a healthcare investment firm called GHO Capital for $118 million, and as a result of that acquisition, they’ve expanded by acquiring two other companies:
- All About Truth DNA Services
Fast forward to today and DDC wants to be the provider of “at home DNA testing kits” under the umbrella brand of HomeDNA. Beginning in July of this year, HomeDNA from DDC deployed their first collection of at home DNA testing kits in retail stores nationwide. Here’s a look at the four tests on offer so far which are available in a store near you.
HomeDNA Paternity Analysis
We can’t say that we’ve been in one of those tricky “who is the father” situations but those who have can now avail themselves of an at home DNA testing kit for paternity. Once you get past the awkward exchange with the cashier, you can take this test home and make sure that child support you’ve been paying for Little Johnny is actually helping spread your DNA instead of an impostor:
It takes exactly one day from after they receive the cheek swabs you send in via Fedex. While this type of DNA test has a concrete use case associated with it, our next test, not so much.
HomeDNA™ Healthy Weight Analysis
Sure, we all want to “eliminate the guesswork for getting to and maintaining a healthy weight” and there are probably some genetic factors for your “big bones”. But, we can guarantee that if you just pick your butt up off the couch and exercise 4 times a week while laying off the fast food, and you do that consistently for 6 months, you will make some tremendous progress. If that hasn’t worked for you, or you want just a wee bit more definition for your ripped abs, then here’s a DNA test that can sort you out:
The test results will provide you with the best foods to meet your caloric needs, your nutrient needs, the most effective supplements to use, and what ideal exercises you should be performing (for most people this would be anything). If you don’t have $119 to spend, just send us $49.99 and a full-body picture in your undies and we’ll have one of our MBAs tell you what your ideal weight should be and how to get there. While we’re having a look, we’ll also tell you what we think of your skin, though we may not get into as much detail as this next test does.
HomeDNA™ Skin Care Analysis
That’s right. This next test identifies your skin’s genetic potential in seven key areas: Collagen Quality, Skin Elasticity, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Sun Protection, Pigmentation, Skin Antioxidants, and Skin Sensitivity.
Then, it tells you which skin products you need to go out and buy. We can already tell that this test will be popular with the ladies (and some of the boys too).
HomeDNA™ Ancestry Analysis
Regular readers will recall a fun experiment we performed not too long ago where we compared 4 popular genetic ancestry tests to see how they stacked up against one another. Now we have another test we need to check out from HomeDNA called GPS Origins. As the name implies, they claim to provide a very exact description of where it is on the planet you came from.
In their words:
The new GPS Origins™ DNA test for ancestry takes you deeper into your family history, targeting your DNA’s origin well beyond other ancestry tests. Using the most comprehensive set of gene pools, 500 reference populations and a powerful algorithm developed at the University of Sheffield by leading genealogy experts, GPS Origins™ has the ability to focus your ancestry search to cities, towns or villages.
Sounds pretty slick and we’re going to give that a whirl and let you know how it stands up to the other 4 test providers we profiled. The main differences here appear to be the migration stories they tell you which are made possible because they have loads more data and are checking more things per the diagram shown above.
Joint Care DNA™ Test
We’ve covered the four at home DNA testing kits being offered in retail stores, but there are also a few others you can purchase. When you get older, “joints” take on a whole new meaning and you find yourself wondering just how can it be possible to wake up sore all the time even without engaging in any pre-sleep “horizontal gymnastics”. That’s where our next test can tell you just how to engage in proper joint care, per information contained within your DNA.
Apparently there are 9 joint-specific genes they can evaluate which can provide insights into the movement and elasticity of your joints. This information will “enhance your knowledge to help maintain optimal joint health” and you’re encouraged to “share the results with your doctor” who will be totally stoked that you’ve decided to take things into your own hands.
DNA Testing for Dogs
While there are plenty of DNA tests for all the members of your family, we are missing an option for fur babies. In case you’re wondering if there’s a genetic test for your dog, there is. In order to make sure that $2,150 you shelled out for a pure-bred husky was money well spent, you’ll need this:
If you can get your dog to sit still for 15 seconds while you stick a foreign object in its mouth to “swab its gums”, then you’ll be rewarded with a genetic report which compares your dog’s DNA to the 12,000 dog breed samples on file in the lab’s database which are used to identify 250 AKC-registered breeds going back three generations:
These are the tests on offer so far from HomeDNA, but expect the selection to grow quickly. HomeDNA knows that your DNA contains enough information that over time, they can sell more types of tests than you can even dream of (that is, until the future where this all takes place at birth). This is how much information is contained within your DNA:
Of course today, all that information isn’t as easy to read as those phonebooks. It’s early days when it comes to interpreting people’s DNA to determine things that are unique to them. We’ve seen how subjective things like ancestry can be. We’ve seen how fitness DNA tests are less about hard science and more about insinuations. Anything that starts to deal with health is also a taboo topic ever since 23andMe had their hands slapped by the FDA back in 2013. Now, they’ve emerged with a recent $200 million funding round and a new focus on the pharmaceutical potential of genomics “big data”. Just look at these facts taken from the 23andMe home page under the header “big data”:
- 23andMe has more than 2,000,000 genotyped customers.
- More than 85 percent of our customers have opted-in to participate in our research.
- To date, the company has collected 600 million phenotypic data points (individual survey responses).
- On average, one individual contributes to 200 different research studies.
- To date, 23andMe has published more than 75 peer-reviewed studies in scientific journals.
With 23andMe moving in a much different direction than “hereditary genetic testing”, this leaves the door open for companies like Ancestry.com to dominate genomics for genealogy along with new entrants like Living DNA which also claims to have greater geographic granularity than other providers (particularly in the U.K.). This puts HomeDNA in the “home DNA test for everything else” category which will (hopefully) grow in usefulness over time. We’re going to give their GPS Origins test a go since it’s currently being offered at $50 off and we’ll compare the results to the other 4 providers we’ve tested with.