23 & Me is a privately run personal genomics and biotech company based out of California, the significance around the number ‘23’ is that there are 23 pairs of chromosomes in a normal human cell.
23 sends you a saliva canister that you then provide a sample for and mail back to them, 6-8 weeks later you’re provided with a bunch of super cool information regarding your specific genetic make up including genetic risk factors, traits, drug responses and inherited conditions. There is also an ancestry composition category that essentially breaks down where you’re from.
Genetic Risk Factors:
There are a total of 12 different markers under this category including Alzheimer’s disease risk, celiac disease risk (gluten tolerance/intolerance), Parkinson’s disease risk and Breast/Ovarian cancer risk to name a few.
I’ll mention that the major ones like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Breast/Ovarian cancer you have to manually unlock because as you can imagine some people would rather not know their genetic risk for such illnesses.
Just in case you’re curious I came back negative on all four fronts, which is advantageous from a genetic standpoint however it doesn’t mean that these diseases are out of the question for me. There is a quote in a scientific community that goes ‘Genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.’ In an ideal world one would be genetically unlikely to develop such diseases all the while living a lifestyle that promotes all around health.
I have to say this section of the testing was the most interesting to me…results such as alcohol flushing, lactose intolerance, male pattern baldness, muscle performance, caffeine metabolism, memory and pain sensitivity were all listed here along with plenty more.
I don’t have an alcohol flushing issue, which if I did would make my skin flush/go red after booze intake. I’m tolerant to lactose for the most part, my male pattern baldness risk is neither good nor bad and I’m fast twitch muscle fiber dominant (think sprinter).
I metabolize caffeine quickly which means I tolerate caffeine well, my memory is pretty typical and so is my pain tolerance. A funny one they threw in there that I had no clue could be tested for on a genetic basis was something called Misophonia which is the sensitivity to the sound of chewing…strange I know. Apparently I have a higher sensitivity to Misophonia, which I can back up from an experiential standpoint, loud open mouth chewers wreak havoc on my senses.
This section is useful if you choose to or need to go on a drug at some point for a certain condition you’re dealing with. Response to drugs like Plavix (anticlotting drug), Warfarin (also anticlotting drug), Phenytoin (epilepsy drug) and metabolism for proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid drug) pop up in this category. These measures fall more under special circumstances however they can be super useful given the need to take such a substance.
This portion of the test lets you know if you have a variant for conditions such as cystic fibrosis (fatal disease affection children/young adults), familial hyperinsulinism (blood sugar condition), and sickle cell anemia (form of anemia) to name a few.
It turns out I’m 52.8% European, 44.3% South Asian with the missing 1.7% being ‘unassigned’ or unknown.
There is also an awesome interactive map in this section breaking down which areas of the world specifically you’re a product of. There’s also a ‘maternal line’ as well as a ‘paternal line’ that breaks down where both your Mother and Father hail from. This section is super cool to explore especially with your family members; speaking from personal experience it sparks some amazing conversation!
There are a number of other 23 & Me categories and rabbit holes you can go down but I think you get the idea. Overall I think it’s a great service that’s both affordable and insightful…I’d recommend it for anyone who is interested in learning more about their genetic breakdown!