Technology

DNA testing firm 23andMe relaunches health tests in US

Anne Wojcicki Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chief executive Anne Wojcicki said 23andMe was now a better company

A company has relaunched in the US after the Food and Drug Administration approved its DNA tests for 36 diseases.

23andMe's health reports covered 254 inherited diseases before being banned by the FDA in 2013, and it is still not allowed to quantify the risk of a user developing one of the 36 conditions.

But it will be able to say whether they are a carrier of any of the conditions and the risk of passing it to children.

It also said it had refused US police requests for customers' genetic data.

Over the past 10 years, it had received four requests on five individuals, three from state agencies and one from the FBI, it said.

The service - which already has more than a million users - will now offer customers, who submit a saliva test and pay $199 (£125), health reports on 36 inherited conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia.

Since the 2013 ban on health tests, 23andMe had offered US users a more limited service, providing ancestry reports and raw uninterpreted data.

They will receive a breakdown of their genetic predispositions, including non-medical inherited traits such as bitter-taste perception, lactose intolerance and even cosmetic characteristics such as cheek dimples or curly hair.

But the service does not test for common conditions such as heart attack, asthma, breast and ovarian cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

In a statement, chief executive Anne Wojcicki said: "We've worked with the FDA for nearly two years to establish a regulatory path for direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

"We are now a better company with a better product."

Experts have questioned what effect the results of the tests will have on users.

Dr Brian Zikmund-Fisher, of the University of Michigan, said: "There is a risk that someone will decide to get tested because they are interested in one disease but end up getting potentially disturbing information about another one, one that they perhaps were less prepared to consider."

23andMe also operates in the UK, offering reports on more than 100 inherited health conditions and traits.

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