Not really news, but for a long time now, I have been meaning to compile a list of different more or less useless DNA-technology applications. Although some may argue that some of these applications can be very useful for the individual, and that some of these sites have yet to reach their full potential, I still think these sites share a general uselessness in improving society.
The list is unsorted.
1. Hairloss. But what difference does it make whether you order a toupée sooner, or later ? Maybe it gives you time to save up for your favorite hairpiece, …….although since you spent your savings buying the test ……..
2. Dogfood. Especially formulated fodder to fit your dogs genetics, – probably including proteins, carbohydrates, fat, sugar, vitamins, minerals and salts – it’s a revolution !
3. Several companies offer genetic testing to optimize your diet and lifestyle. This company and this one are examples. You can also order a genetically optimized juice here and your supplements here. Unfortunately I suspect that the advice we all know already, enough exercise and healthy eating habits, is pretty much the advice these companies are going to give you too. Besides most of us know which foods we tolerate or don’t.
4. Personal genetics from 23andMe, Navigenics and DeCodeMe. This review comments better than I would have, on the health benefits or lack thereof. However, these companies may very well provide very useful genetic information for future research. Whether you should pay $999 for this is another question. Maybe join this project instead ?
5. Genetic ancestry. This is a small industry now. Here, here, here and here are examples. A skeptical news story can be found here. Since Oprah has endorsed these tests, they will prevail, – much like the American presidential election campaign 2008 is settled already, seeing that Oprah has given her support to Barrack Obama.
6. Another emerging industry is paternity testing (examples here, here and here). Actually, this is arguably a useful application for some. Getting knocked up and opting out of abortion, will never be the same.
7. Stretching paternity testing into detecting extramarital affairs however, is definitely not very useful. Is it infidelity you discover or just someones DNA somewhere ? This is the essential question, – usually answered in lengthy court trials and not in any given household.
8. Cosmetics. The following genes will apparently be analyzed in this test: MMP, SOD2, GPX1, EPHX, TNFa. These genes encode proteins central in many cellular processes, not confined to skin cells. Assigning them the responsibility for skin “health” is therefore stretching it. My point is underscored by the fact that the same genes (with some additions) are analyzed in the same company’s…
10. Breeding – DNA-testing is used extensively and increasingly in breeding programmes for livestock and horses. In itself useful I guess, but using this to determine your dog’s breed seem to me to be more on the useless side. Most breeds I know are distinguishable by the naked eye, and usually when you buy a dog from a breeder, the complete ancestry is given. Keeping the ancestry logs and consequently having a pure breed, is what breeders make a living out of.
The first version of this post was published here (not in English).