This article is from the In-Depth Report Personalized Medicine in the Genomic Era

Are Personal Genome Scans Medically Useless?

Doubts about whether commercial DNA scans improve health

Navigenics, 23andMe and deCODE specify that customers own their personal data. But executives keep the door open to use their growing databases for research with commercial or nonprofit partners. Such studies should take place under research protocols, not as an outgrowth of consumer marketing, the CDC’s Khoury argues. For now, he says, the best tool available to personalize medicine is low tech and low cost: family health history. It captures the effects of multiple genes, shared environment and common behavior. But less than one third of the population has actively collected such information. Genotyping is a wonderful research technology, Khoury remarks, but “it’s going to take a long time to translate gene discovery into action.”

Editor's Note: This story was originally printed with the title "Taking Genomes Personally"

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