Posted: 2017-09-11 15:38
“Clearly, there is a whole world of companies that are trying to take advantage of people,” Montgomery told Gizmodo. “Sports, health advice, are coming out saying, ‘We can look at your DNA and tell you what you should be doing.’ Really, though, we’re still trying to understand the basics of genetic architecture. We need to help people avoid getting caught in these genetic traps.”
Montgomery is one of a growing number of scientists pushing back against wild claims in the consumer genetics market, which is flush with tests promising to plumb the secrets of our DNA for answers to everything from what kind of wine we’ll enjoy to what diseases we’re at risk of developing. These tests vary wildly in levels of absurdity. One test that recently earned eye-rolls promises to improve a child’s soccer abilities with a personalized, genetics-based training regimen. In case it’s not clear, there is still no way to decode from DNA the perfect plan to turn your 7-year-old into a soccer star.
Plenty of the tests out there, MacArthur said, are relatively harmless. Finding out which wine you’re “genetically” likely to enjoy probably isn’t going to hurt much more than your wallet. But that’s not always the case. MacArthur pointed to a simple genetic test that claimed it could detect autism , which he and his colleagues spoke out about after finding out the test had a patent in the works.
For years, Daniel MacArthur, a geneticist at the Broad Institute, ran a blog dedicated in part to exposing bad science in the realm of genetics. Like many scientists, he now uses Twitter to call attention to bogus tests. Other reliable Twitter crusaders include UCLA geneticist Leonid Kruglyak , health policy expert Timothy Caufield , and CalTech computational biologist Lior Pachter. For every new pseudoscientific DNA test, it seems more voices join the chorus.
The mind behind this parody is Stanford geneticist Stephen Montgomery, who hopes the website he launched this week will highlight the extreme absurdity of many of the “scientific” consumer genetic tests now on the market. Fork over $699 to Yes or No Genomics, and you will find out, inevitably, that you do have genetic variants, because everyone does. And that “ specialized optical instrument ” used to determine this? A kaleidoscope.