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Your Take: Would You Get Genetic Testing?

My wife and I once discussed getting genetic testing done to figure out whether our kids would be grow up to become NBA superstars and fund our lavish retirement plans. Anyway, with that plan in mind, I originally planned to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get myself tested by a plethora of different genetic testing companies, but Discover Magazine, with their deep pockets and journalistic pull, beat me to the punch and saved me a bunch of money. (whew!)

Boonsri Dickinson was genetically tested by three different firms [3] (Navigenics [4], 23andMe [5], and deCODE genetics [6]) and the results were… eh, anticlimactic. What I learned in Dickinson’s article was that genetic testing was at best still an imperfect science. The data we have on the human genome simply isn’t deep enough to give us a clear and accurate picture of even our own future, let alone the future of the children of couples being tested.

One surprising factoid was the importance of race. I had always heard that there was really no genetic difference between any two races [7], that individual variance was a bigger deal than racial variances. This was in direct conflict with the analysis methodology for interpreting the DNA testing results. Dickinson is half-European and half-Asian… and her 23andMe results would wildly fluctuate based on how she classified her ancestry.

While I can see the merits of genetic testing, it still sounds like it’s an imperfect science because we simply don’t understand it well enough. We often see media stories about how we’ve discovered the gene for this or that and the reality is that it’s just not that simple. I think genetic testing, for now, with its hefty price tag and inaccurate results, is out of any future plans.

How about you? Ever consider it? Too creepy (Gattaca [8], anyone?)? Too expensive? See no point to it?

(Photo: mknowles [9])