Dec 11, 2013

Journey to myself - 23andMe, health results (Part 4)

I might have been one of the last customers of 23andMe to have received health information from the DNA sequencing service they offered. Although initially I was most interested in exploring my ancestry, the main reason I chose this service rather than any other ancestry service was because I could get the additional health information. Unfortunately, FDA has ordered 23andMe to stop providing health data and who-knows-when they will be able to do so again. As controversial as it is the interpretation of our individual genome data now, because we know so little, I think it is the right direction the world should move towards. Eventually, we should be able to access our genome data whenever we want, and have clear and extensive information of any risk for developing any diseases or condition before they have happened, so that we could act in advance before it is too late... at least if it is within the limits of our own possibilities and the available technologies. In an ideal world, this genome data should be used fairly for the improvement of people’s well-being, but it does raise concerns about whether ‘your genome’ becomes another product to be sold for profit, misused, and taken advantage of.

Several of my close relatives have died of cancer, my grandfather died of throat cancer, and three uncles have succumbed to different forms of the diseases before they reached sixty years old. So, I was very interested about what the results would tell me. I must say most of the results were totally unexpected.

23andMe provided Health information divided into four sections. These were: health risks (122 risk reports), inherited conditions (53 different ones), traits (60), and drug response (25). Depending on how much research has been done on the disease, condition, or trait, they calculate a confidence factor. If there is a lot of research done in the genetic basis of particular diseases, they mark it as four stars. If research has only been done in a very limited number of patients, they mark it with one star. For the health conditions which are marked with four stars a risk percentage is calculated, and this could be above average (higher risk), below average (lower risk), or average (typical risk).

In my report I was surprised to find that I have an above average risk for Coronary Heart Diseases (CHD). This is one of the diseases for which a lot of research has been done. Fifteen genetic markers have been identified over the years, and they show you in a plot which particular genetic markers you got and whether they are likely to increase or decrease your risk for the diseases (see the figure below). They have calculated that for men, the average risk of CHD is 46.8%; and this was calculated for men of European ethnicity. In their own words, “46.8 out of 100 men of European ethnicity will develop Coronary Heart Disease between the ages of 45 and 79”.

In my personal case, I was calculated to have 60.2% risk… meaning that 6 out of 10 people with my genetic markers will develop CHD. That is not a very positive prognosis!

Fuck genetics goddammit!

23andMe health results
My genetic markers for CHD, what is that large red bar? WHY TO ME!!!
For each genetic marker associated with the disease you will get an explanation of what it means, a summary of the research that it has been done specific for that marker, and you will be able to access further scientific literature in the matter. I think that is quite nice. 

In addition to CHD, I was calculated higher than average risk for a number of other health problems including type 2 diabetes, psoriasis, age-associated macular degeneration, atrial fibrillation, gout, and ulcerative colitis. I might say that my grand-mother had diabetes, and uncle suffers of gout, and on my dad’s side there has been a lot of “eye” related problems. My grandma’s sister became blind, my dad suffered retina detachment, and some of my aunts have undergone already eye surgeries for several eye-issues. Could that be related to my genetic markers for macular degeneration? Who can tell. As far as it concerns me, I should just take good care of myself and keep a healthy diet and lifestyle.

On the other hand, one of my “traits” results relates to Adiponectin levels, it says:

Adiponectin is a hormone that is secreted by fat cells. It regulates the breakdown of fats and sugars and influences the body's response to insulin. Lower levels of adiponectin may increase the odds of obesity while higher levels are thought to be beneficial and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and related conditions. Many factors are likely to influence adiponectin levels, including genetics.

I was found to have two genetic markers that have been linked to higher levels of adiponectin, according to some research performed in Asian populations. So how will this affect my chances of CHD or diabetes remains to be seen!

Besides that, I was also found to have some genetic markers that have been associated to higher risk in other diseases, but the research is not extensive enough to calculate a risk percentage. Some scary examples are basal cell carcinoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, meningioma, and sarcoma. I also have some mutations that might increase my chances of developing bipolar disorder (funny).
On the positive side I was calculated to have a lower than average risk for Alzheimer’s, colorectal cancer, melanoma, rheumatoid arthritis, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, stomach cancer, type 1 diabetes, among many others.

Another interesting part of the analysis is the drug response study. I was found to have higher than average sensitivity to a drug called Warfarin, and anticoagulant. It might also be that a drug called Clopidogrel will have lower efficacy in me... and funny enough this drug is used to treat CHD. They also found that I was a fast Caffeine metabolizer and I have higher odds of becoming addicted to heroin than average: oops, I better don’t try it out then.

On the traits part of the study I was found to have higher odds of detecting the smell of asparagus metabolites in pee. I don’t often eat asparagus so I can't tell you whether this is correct or not now, but perhaps I should add some asparagus into my healthy-heart menus. I also have mutations that gives me lower odds of developing chronic hepatitis B if infected with the virus, and I also learned that I have no resistant to HIV/AIDS or noroviruses, what a bummer!

I have one mutation that according to a study of 4405 individuals of European ancestry was associated with less freckling. I have another mutation that was found to be associated with typical number of freckles and moles in Anglo-Celtic people: how about freckles in Latinos?

On a more interesting note than freckling, I also have a mutation that gives me a “slightly increased episodic memory”, mutations that reduce my sensitivity to sweaty odors (lucky?), and I have a mutation that was linked to much less efficiency at learning to avoid errors, according to an study on 26 healthy German subjects. I also have the muscle performance of Usain Bolt and if I had been a woman, I may have had smaller than average tits.

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