The American scientific magazine MIT Review, from the renowned University of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has just published a report estimating that more than 26 million people have already used these kits to have their DNA tested.
If this growth trend continues, the companies selling these kits will have the “genetic fingerprints” of more than 100 million people.
Sold on the Internet, these DNA test kits are very simple to use. Supplied with instructions to swab for a little saliva which is mailed back to the laboratory, the customer receives his DNA results by e-mail within a few weeks time.
These tests compare an individual’s genetic fingerprints or DNA profile to a database of populations in several parts of the world and can also compare the percentage of DNA in common with those previously tested and whose genetic data is available. By noting the genetic ancestry for each client, these companies have gradually compiled huge databases.
Almost the entire market is held by 2 companies: Ancestry DNA and 23andMe. Ancestry DNA offers to study the ethnic origins of its clients or to help them find a person with whom they have family ties. A subsidiary of Google, 23andMe originally proposed these tests to provide information on health and genetic risks. It now also allows people to find a family member, such as Arthur Kermalvezen, born by ART (assisted reproductive technology) with anonymous donor, who found his biological father through these databases. Also an offspring from a donor, his wife found a half-sister and a half-brother via these databases.
Major issues are raised since these tests are available to the public on the Internet. Data protection could be problematic, in addition to the fact that the results are not always reliable. Test results communicated without any medical support could be a difficult shock, for example, when receiving an e-mail notice for a predisposition to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease…
In France, DNA testing or genetic fingerprinting is only allowed for medical research or police investigation purposes. Otherwise, if a person requests DNA testing for himself or a third party, or requests identification of an individual based on his genetic fingerprints, he could be fined €3,750 .