Monday, November 27, 2017

Genome Link Review

Genome Link - Knowledge Base
Genome Link, powered by Awakens, Inc., is a third party website that accepts raw DNA data from 23andMe and AncestryDNA to provide some health reports for free, and even more for a $89 fee (currently on sale for only $39). It does not include an ethnicity report.

The health report includes your risk of some diseases, as well as things like physical traits, personality (mental health), intelligence, nutrition, and fitness. Unfortunately, the way it presents your results is very technical and confusing. It does not explain your results in plain English so that most people can understand it easily. What's more, is that the section which is easier to understand does not even include your personal results.

Floating bubbles in Knowledge Base
There's two sections: Explore Genome (shown below), and Knowledge Base (shown above and right). The names suggest Explore Genome is where you'll find your own results, and Knowledge Base is general information, but newcomers to the field may not understand this. So at first glance, Knowledge Base looks like where you would find your health reports, but these are actually just reports on the general population's tendency towards these conditions and traits. Clicking on them will show you a chart with floating bubbles (shown right) - the bigger and more bubbles, the higher or lower a population's tendency on the scale. Different colored bubbles indicate populations from different parts of the world. Europe is blue, Asia is pink, etc. So you can see whether Asians, Africans, etc are more or less prone to certain things. It's interesting, but it really doesn't tell you anything about yourself. What's worse is that it's poorly explained and at first makes it look like these are your personal results - but as you can see in the screenshot, why would I have pink (East Asian) bubbles when I have no East Asian ancestry? These are not my results.

Exploring my genome
Where you find your personal reports is instead under "Explore Genome", but this section is highly technical and not easy to use. On the far right are your chromosomes you can click through and on the far left it lists a ton of conditions and traits in seemingly no particular order (though there is a search field above) and clicking on them will show you in the large middle space where in your genome they appear with a letter underneath indicating your genotype (shown left). This visual display is totally unnecessary, you can see all the empty space used just to tell me my genotype is "A." Most people just want to know whether they are at a higher or lower risk for a condition, but the report won't tell you this, not in plain English. All it will say is if you have a certain genotype, you should click on the link for more information. The link will take you to the publication of a medical study, which is highly technical and probably not going to be understood by most people. And you can't assume that having the certain genotype means you're at a higher risk for that condition. For example, it may sound like I am a carrier for Cystic Fibrosis because it says "If you have A then check the evidence below" - and according to them, I do have "A" (genotype). But according to every other health report I've run on my DNA, I am not a carrier for Cystic Fibrosis. So this could be very misleading. Sure enough, opening up their link to the medical publication isn't useful for a laywoman like myself, as it's full of highly technical data I can't even begin to understand.

There is a "Help" button in the lower right, but it's just a short FAQ which really doesn't tell you much more than what I've just explained.

Conclusion: While you do get a good amount of health reports for free, they are fairly useless for the average individual as they do not explain, in plain English, what they mean. And while you can also get many more reports for the $89 fee, it would still be useless unless you're an genetic academic and can understand the medical publications. If they were to add better interpretations of the results so most people could understand them, this could be a very comprehensive health report, especially given what you get for free. As for the $89 fee, you can get just as many reports (which are much easier to understand) from Promethease.com for a mere $5, so the Genome Link's fee seems extremely high, even if, as I write this, it's on sale for only $39.

1 comment:

  1. It gave me some fun results, but more than half of them were flat-out wrong. Makes me wonder if it's really a data mining site.

    ReplyDelete