London: Individuals can now learn key elements of their genetic composition with the help of a new DNA testing kit for the price of a night out.
Carole Kushnir, who took a test out of simple curiosity about her genetic make-up, revealed a double risk of cancer, and Karen Durrett was led to her father she had never known after half a century.
The two women are among 180,000 people who have paid to have key components of their DNA analysed by 23andMe, the world’s biggest private genomics company, to assess more than 200 genetic traits and health risks.
This number is expected to soar this year after the California-based company dramatically reduced the cost of a testing kit to 99 dollars after an infusion of new joint venture capital.
Sales of the kits were a Christmas hit and the company, which was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google entrepreneur Sergey Brin, is aiming to reach a million clients by the end of this year.
On the other hand, critics are alarmed that people will be overloaded with information that is difficult for them to interpret, raise unnecessary health fears or false reassurances, lead to unneeded procedures for diseases that might never develop or impose the stress of fears over conditions that cannot, for now at least, be cured.