Since 23andWe debuted in May, we’ve asked our customers about all sorts of things: their hair color, earwax consistency, whether they tend to look on life’s bright side. Sometimes people have been surprised to learn that something like your susceptibility to motion sickness — or even which way the hair swirls on top of your head — may be influenced by genetics.
Now we’re introducing three new surveys that ask our customers a few more thought-provoking questions that could help science understand more about genetics:
- Our new ancestry survey, “Where are You From?” inquires about the birthplaces of our customers, their parents and grandparents. We’re hoping the survey can help us do an even better job of correlating peoples’ genetics to their ancestral homelands. It could also help us address questions geneticists have had little opportunity to ask in the past, such as how regional genetic differences within the United States may reflect the different ethnic backgrounds of the people who settled in the country. And finally, recent papers such as this one suggest that ancestry information can be vital to any study that tries to associate genes and traits.
- Our second survey, “Health Habits,” asks about things like exercise, diet, smoking and drug use. It’s not that we want to determine whether there are genetic influences on whether a person smokes (though there probably are) so much as we’d like to know these things so we can see if they are more likely than genetics to account for the way people respond to certain surveys.
- Researchers often struggle to distinguish between the contributions of nature and nurture when they study things like personality, IQ and athletic ability. Our final new survey — “What Do You Do?” — tries to account for some elements on the nurture side of the gene-environment equation.
These new surveys are a little different from some of the ones our customers have already taken. They’re not going to tell you if you’re less optimistic than average, or whether your tendency to sneeze in bright sunlight makes you a freak of nature (It doesn’t). But they’re just as critical to helping us reach our goal of advancing genetic research. So if you’re a 23andMe customer, we invite you to visit 23andWe and take our latest surveys. And if you haven’t joined the 23andMe community yet, we invite you to read more about 23andWe on our public site.