DNA testing, spit parties, commercial dna testing

DNA ‘Spit Party’ Draws Celebs, Sparks Concerns

September 16, 2008 06:52 AM
by Rachel Balik
The DNA testing company 23andMe hosted a Fashion Week party that offered its guests a free sample of their services.

Spit Party Debuts at New York Fashion Week

Fashion week parties tend to offer perks for elite guests, but the favors at one party last week may be a curse as much as a blessing. The company 23andMe, a new DNA company, held a “spit party” where guests could spit in a test tube and send in results to find out everything they wanted to know—and potentially things they’d rather not know—about their genetic code.

One couple submitting their saliva together told The New York Times that their results might help them decide whether they should have a child of their own. But most of those at the gathering focused on gleaning entertainment value. Ivanka Trump was glad to hear that she didn’t carry the obesity gene and equally pleased to tease a girl in her circle of friends because she did.
Trump is a friend of Anne Wojcicki, who founded the company with backing from Wendi Murdoch (wife of Rupert) and film producer Harvey Weinstein. The party was notably star-studded, and entirely lacking in any kind of medical professional, perhaps because 23andMe is as much a networking site as it is a health service. Those not privileged enough to spit for free at the promotional party can visit the company’s Web site and order a testing kit for the new low price of $399. The site brags that new kit has “more data, more features.” Those features include not just learning about your own health, but researching your ancestors, posting results online and comparing them with friends and family, and opting to participate in more research.

Background Link: Consumer DNA Tests Banned In California

The health departments of California and New York have sent letters to several companies, including 23andMe, ordering them to cease distribution of commercial genetic tests. In New York, the law requires companies to obtain specific licenses to sell such tests, while in California, only doctors can order genetic tests. Reactions are mixed as to whether the tightened control is a good or bad thing. Most doctors feel that DNA medical matters should be overseen by trained professionals, but Thomas Goetz wrote for Wired, “Frankly, it’s insulting and a curtailment of my rights to put a gatekeeper between me and my DNA.”

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