Drugstore chain Walgreens will begin peddling the world’s first-ever, over-the-counter genetic testing kits, the Chicago Tribune reports, allowing everyday consumers to screen for markers of more than 70 hereditary diseases.
Some scientists worry, however, that the public will misuse this complex (yet lacking) ancestral data.
As of tomorrow, Walgreens will offer Insight’s at-home test kit (at $20 to $30), allowing consumers to send saliva samples off to a Pathway Genomics laboratory for analysis (at the cost of an additional $79 to $179).
“There are people who want to know more about their genetic makeup,” says Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn, “and we pride ourselves on being convenient and accessible.”
According to Pathway executive Ed MacBean, the Insight testing kit provides “information that allows a person to learn about their health to make healthier lifestyle choices.”
But for some scientists — like Dr. Nilesh Samani from the University of Leicester in England, who, along with a team of over 30 researchers, spent a full year picking through a single man’s genetic data — such superficial testing is a recipe for disaster.
Samani says the commercial use of such genetic testing is akin to trying to play a game of poker with knowledge of only a small number of cards.
“You need to know the rest to know whether it is worthwhile,” explains the professor of cardiology. “That is a ... big limitation.”