It’s Thanksgiving week in the US which for many means gathering together with family. If you’re sitting around the holiday dinner table and wondering, "Can I really be related to these people?," you might be tempted to take one of the increasingly popular mail-in genetics tests. Companies like AncestryDNA and 23andme offer you a look at how your genetic ancestry breaks down in terms of percentages of your lineage coming from different regions around the globe. They also offer the possibility of connecting with potential relatives based on matches in your DNA to other users in their database.
23andme further offers a report on your genetic health risks, including whether you have genetic mutations for diseases like cystic fibrosis that may affect any future children and how likely you are to develop Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. It is this disease risk assessment that got the company into some trouble with the FDA back in 2013. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration required that 23andme discontinue the disease prediction portion of their service until they could offer more proof of the accuracy of their tests as well as evidence that their customers understood their results. However, as of April 2017, the FDA has restored authorization to 23andme to provide the information on genetic disease markers based on evidence from peer-reviewed scientific studies directly linking those diseases with the genetic mutations the company tests for.