Mar 12, 2019 10:56 AM EDT
23andMe revealed that they have the latest genetic testing analysis that could tell if their customers have an elevated risk for Type 2 diabetes. The report that has yet to be cleared by the FDA and is not intended to make a diagnosis of the most common type of diabetes. However, the genetic testing analysis has resulted to be helpful as diabetes is becoming one of the top intractable diseases, producing a health crisis in the US.
Did you know that one in every four dollars paid for public health goes to the treatment of diabetes and the complications that come with it? The situation is evidently popular among African Americans and Native American populations. Obesity is the top problem of such populations that one out of every seven people have it.
However, it can be a bit disappointing that this new test by 23andMe proves to be most useful for the skinny white Americans. Unlike its other reports, this research project inspects for the polygenic risk score. It puts together all the risk contributions in a person's genome. Although each one could put a person at high risk for diabetes, when taken together, the risks will start to add up.
The algorithms used to interpret the polygenic risks was first pioneered in the mid-2000s. What is new about the 23andMe's system is that it can calculate huge genetic databases. However, the databases are hugely part of the white population. Though the company may not want it to out like such, the polygenic test scores perform well best for people from the same ethnic group from where the algorithms were trained and tested.
Sadly, this test may not produce accurate results for African Americans and other folks of non-European ancestry. It performs especially poor results for black Americans. Its results can be likened to that of a toss coin kind of prediction.
In a column for Stat, the company's vice president, A Chinese National married to a man of Mexican descent, wrote that they are working on research collaborations to fill out the sparse parts of their database to accommodate more people and still produce accurate results. However, the process requires more time. Because of this limitation, the polygenic risk test is race restricted when it becomes available in the market.
Cecile Janssens, an epidemiologist from Emory University expressed her dismay saying, "There is little to no value in the scores from the test that I have no idea what can be done with its data." She further likened the test to someone who looks at the mirror and makes a prediction that they may have diabetes or that they may not have it.
Though the intent in creating such a test is all for the goodness of humanity, it has fallen short in reaching its target population. Perhaps further tests need to be conducted to fill the gaps to actually become useful for the most part of the world that's suffering from diabetes and the complications that come with it.
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