At-home genetic tests gain FDA approval

By Laura Mize • Published: July 12th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

First came smartphones, then smart TVs, smart cars and even smart refrigerators. With tablets and watches joining cell phones as communication tools, it’s easy to be connected 24/7. The digital age just keeps getting more amazing.

Health care is no exception. In what may be an indication of things to come, the Food and Drug Administration has approved tests for consumers to use at home to reveal their genetic risks for certain diseases. There are 10 approved tests, each for a different genetic variation linked to a disease and all produced by the same company.

Some of the conditions include Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease and certain types of Alzheimer’s disease and dystonia. Not all are available yet for purchase.

The customer experience is relatively simple. After purchasing and receiving a test kit, the user registers it online. Next, he or she deposits saliva in the collection tube, seals it up and mails it to the company. Several weeks later, results are privately accessible online, identifying whether the subject has the specified genetic variations.

As convenient as the process may be, there are important caveats. Having a genetic variation linked to a disease does not mean one will definitely develop the disease. Factors including environment, lifestyle and the presence of other ailments can affect disease development, regardless of your DNA. Also, there’s the risk of a false positive or negative. But the tests can help users pinpoint potential health pitfalls, and perhaps steer them toward healthful life choices — no needles or trip to the doctor’s office required.