Apr 25, 2024 - News

Genetic Variants Protective Against Alcoholism May Impact Other Health Outcomes

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Today is DNA Day, and while every day at 23andMe is about DNA, this one is extra special because it allows everyone to delight in the power of DNA.

Whether you are a 23andMe customer or just DNA curious, there is a lot you can do if you’d like to start or deepen your genetic journey and take action to participate in the new genomic age.

We’ll get to that, but first, take a moment to learn —or refresh your knowledge — about what we’re celebrating.

A Double Helix Celebration

DNA Day commemorates the anniversary of the 1953 discovery of the double helix structure of DNA and the 2003 completion of the human genome project that led to the sequencing of the human genome for the first time. That code represents the building blocks of life, and it gives us access to information that has already led to medical and scientific breakthroughs, as well as an understanding of the human story.

23andMe was founded in 2006, not long after the publication of the mapping of the human genome. Our mission then and now is to help people access, understand, and benefit from the human genome

Not too long ago, 23andMe surpassed 15 million genotyped customers, each of whom chose to begin their genetic journey with us. We’d like to invite you along as well, or if you’re already a customer, we’d like to share with you how to go a little further on this journey.

First Steps

If you’re not yet a customer, your first step could be to spit in a tube provided in one of our test kits and send it to our lab. At the lab, technicians extract DNA from your saliva, which is placed on a genotyping chip.

Here’s a little video about the different services we offer customers and what they can tell you about your health, traits, and ancestry.

Of course, if you don’t want to use 23andMe or don’t want to use a genetic test, there are plenty of great and free options for learning more about genetics. One of our go-to resources is the National Human Genome Research Institute, but many other options exist.

Open and Explore Your Reports

Like with any exploration, you don’t know what you might find in using 23andMe that could draw you deeper into your DNA exploration.

Customers might want to learn more about their health, find DNA relatives, or learn about their genetic ancestry. Some people are just curious and want to geek out on genetics. 

If you’ve taken that first step and tested, the next step is to open your reports. Some Genetic Health Risk Reports*—such as those on Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants), and Parkinson’s Disease, for instance—require an additional opt-in before opening. But whatever reports you’re looking at, we have tutorials on navigating them and where to start.

Our Ancestry Service has the most comprehensive ancestry breakdown on the market; it now includes more than 3000 geographic regions, an automatic family tree builder, and more than 30 trait reports. As 23andMe grows, so does our ability to improve the granularity and specificity of the regions we offer in our ancestry report. For instance, we added 36 new Genetic Groups in France and Belgium. 

23andMe’s Health + Ancestry Service includes everything you get in the Ancestry Service plus health predisposition reports (including FDA-authorized reports), wellness reports, carrier status reports, and a family health history tree feature. In all, the service includes more than 150 personalized reports.

The 23andMe+ Premium membership includes everything in the Health + Ancestry Service plus more than 30 PRS reports, including reports on three of the most common forms of cancer and reports on heart health and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. In addition, the service includes FDA-authorized reports on how your genetics may impact the way you process certain types of medications.** 23andMe+ Premium also includes tools and features such as Health TracksSM and Health Action Plan to help you get even more personalized recommendations. Most recently, we’ve added a new ancestry feature called Historical MatchesSM that helps determine whether you connect to one or more of 335 historical people across the globe. 

For those who want our most advanced and comprehensive health membership, we offer 23andMe+ Total Health***, which includes next-generation sequencing that detects 200x more disease-causing genetic variants*. This new membership offers more than 190 genetic reports from 23andMe+ Premium, along with clinician-ordered exome sequencing to help identify disease risks and biannual blood testing with advanced cardiometabolic biomarkers. You’ll have direct access to clinicians trained in genetics-informed care to receive a personalized health plan tailored to you

Whatever services you’re using with 23andMe, we offer a guide to get started with your reports.

Participate in Research

What is something in you, something in your DNA, that could help scientists better understand a disease or develop a new treatment or cure? 

One of the many innovations 23andMe pioneered is our research model, which allows people to consent to participate in research. The guiding principle for 23andMe is transparency and choice. It’s a choice whether someone wants to access their genetic information, and 23andMe also gives our customers a choice about whether they want to participate in research. More than 80 percent of 23andMe customers actively consent to participate in research. 

Our research database, which contains aggregated de-identified genetic and phenotypic data, is by far the largest research database of its kind. 

It’s helped not just our scientists but academic and institutional researchers with whom we’ve collaborated on more than 250 publications on neurological conditions, cancers, and rare diseases. There are also ongoing research studies for Parkinson’s Disease, Colorectal Cancer within the Black Community, and Sickle Cell. And we continue to work on other conditions, including depression and bipolar disorder, sarcoidosis, and COVID

Another aspect of this work is ensuring that our research is more representative and thus benefits people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, much of genetic research to date lacks diversity, which has meant that people of non-European backgrounds often do not benefit from those insights. 23andMe is trying to change that. Our Black Representation in Genomic Research study, for instance, has made great strides at engaging with communities that have historically been left out of research. 

You can also help. If you’re a customer of 23andMe, you can consent to participate in research at any time through your Account Settings; if you’re not, you can seek out opportunities to participate in research through the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us effort, for example, or the Veteran’s Administration Million Veterans Program.

Share Your Story

It’s always been heartening for us at 23andMe to hear from our customers and those who participate in our research about how launching their DNA journey has impacted them. 

Whether they’ve learned more about their family’s ancestral journey, discovered life-saving information about family members, or joined with others to participate in crucial genetic research, their stories inspire us all. 

If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it.

*23andMe health predisposition reports include both reports that meet FDA requirements for genetic health risks and reports that are based on 23andMe research and have not been reviewed by the FDA. The test uses qualitative genotyping to detect select clinically relevant variants in the genomic DNA of adults from saliva for the purpose of reporting and interpreting genetic health risks. It is not intended to diagnose any disease. Your ethnicity may affect the relevance of each report and how your genetic health risk results are interpreted. Each genetic health risk report describes if a person has variants associated with a higher risk of developing a disease, but does not describe a person’s overall risk of developing the disease. The test is not intended to tell you anything about your current state of health or to be used to make medical decisions, including whether or not you should take a medication, how much of a medication you should take, or determine any treatment. For certain conditions, we provide a single report that includes information on both carrier status and genetic health risk. 

Warnings & Limitations: The 23andMe PGS Genetic Health Risk Report for BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) is indicated for reporting 44 variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The report describes if a person’s genetic result is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer and may be associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and potentially other cancers. The variants included in this report do not represent the majority of the BRCA1/BRCA2 variants in people of most ethnicities. This report does not include variants in other genes linked to hereditary cancers and the absence of variants included in this report does not rule out the presence of other genetic variants that may impact cancer risk. This report is for over-the-counter use by adults over the age of 18 and provides genetic information to inform discussions with a healthcare professional. The PGS test is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional for recommended screenings or appropriate follow-up. Results should be confirmed by an independent genetic test prescribed by your own healthcare provider before taking any medical action. For important information and limitations regarding each genetic health risk report, visit 23andme.com/test-info/

**23andMe PGS Pharmacogenetics reports: The 23andMe test uses qualitative genotyping to detect 3 variants in the CYP2C19 gene, 2 variants in the DPYD gene, and 1 variant in the SLCO1B1 gene in the genomic DNA of adults from saliva for the purpose of reporting and interpreting information about the processing of certain therapeutics to inform discussions with a healthcare professional. It does not describe if a person will or will not respond to a particular therapeutic. Our CYP2C19 Pharmacogenetics report provides certain information about variants associated with the metabolism of some therapeutics and provides interpretive drug information regarding the potential effect of citalopram and clopidogrel therapy. Our SLCO1B1 Pharmacogenetics report provides certain information about variants associated with the processing of some therapeutics and provides interpretive drug information regarding the potential effect of simvastatin therapy. Our DPYD Pharmacogenetics report does not describe the association between detected variants and any specific therapeutic. Results for DPYD and certain CYP2C19 results should be confirmed by an independent genetic test prescribed by your own healthcare provider before taking any medical action. Warning: Test information should not be used to start, stop, or change any course of treatment and does not test for all possible variants that may affect metabolism or protein function. The PGS test is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional. Making changes to your current regimen can lead to harmful side effects or reduced intended benefits of your medication, therefore consult with your healthcare professional before taking any medical action. For important information and limitations regarding Pharmacogenetic reports, visit 23andme.com/test-info/pharmacogenetics/ 

***Total Health is not available to residents of HI, NJ, NY, OK, RI and US territories. Not currently available to existing 23andMe customers. Sign up to be the first to know when it’s available.

Exome Sequencing and blood testing services are available to eligible customers upon completion of the intake questionnaire that must be reviewed, approved and ordered by a third-party clinician. Exome Sequencing is analyzed by a CLIA- and CAP-accredited laboratory. Blood testing is completed by Quest Diagnostics. All telehealth services are provided in accordance with the Telehealth Terms and Consent Telehealth.

‡Our genotyping product detects 250 health-related variants in our Carrier Status and Genetic Health Risk reports. The Exome Sequencing reports detect 50,000+ hereditary disease-causing variants. 

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