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PLAIN AND SIMPLE

The biggest problem with at-home genetic testing services is hiding in plain sight

An attendee interacts with a display at the 23andMe booth at the RootsTech annual genealogical event in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., February 28, 2019.
Reuters/George Frey
Easy to see, easy to share, harder to fully understand.
  • Katherine Ellen Foley
By Katherine Ellen Foley

Health and science reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Direct-to-consumer genetic tests like Ancestry and 23andMe were mostly the result of innocent curiosity.

Geneticists at the turn of the century were hopeful that after the near completion of the Human Genome Project, they would be able to provide comprehensive personalized insights to everyone. While this idea may be true eventually, right now it’s still a pipe dream: Individual genetics have so many variations (membership), scientists couldn’t possibly understand them all in the few decades modern genetics has existed.

At-home genetic testing companies, though, immediately capitalized on the few variations scientists do understand: a handful related to health and wellness traits, and a few others associated with populations from across the world. The services filled a need (membership). Customers desperately want to understand their genetic material, and now they could, it seemed, with easy-to-read maps and donut charts.

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