With millions of Americans suffering from diabetes and many more at risk, 23andMe decided to upgrade its DNA test to include a report on the disease. They have become the first of the DNA companies to offer this report and it's no small feat. There were multiple steps involved in the process, including a study that was carried out using genomic data already on file.
Data Already on File Contributed to Success
In order to develop the test for diabetes, 23andMe had to turn internally first. Over 2.5 million users consented to having their data used for the study. What the research revealed is that it's not a specific gene that contributes to diabetes, but rather a series of variations that could put a person at a higher risk. It's also important to note that there is essentially no "decreased" risk. Almost anyone can develop type 2 diabetes over the course of their lifetime.
Lifestyle Changes Matter
Most of the undiagnosed cases of diabetes are type 2. Type 1 is typically diagnosed early on because the symptoms are more severe and unlike type 2 where the body doesn't respond to insulin properly, type 1 diabetics don't produce insulin at all. Type 2 diabetes typically involves lifestyle choices and making drastic changes is required to reduce one's risk. Where 23andMe comes in, is that they hope to inspire these changes and have even implemented Lark, an AI coach, to help inform and coach those who want more help.
One of the things that 23andMe could potentially achieve, according to CNBC, is raising awareness when it comes to the disease. Specifically, it could help doctors by showing that risk factors don't necessary start and end with the family tree; there's a lot more involved and most of it is behavioral. With consumers, it could potentially inspire them to eat healthier and lose weight in an effort to stave off the risk.
23andMe also stands to gain a lot from the test, more specifically new users. Currently, they have over 8 million profiles in the system, and the diabetes factor could attract millions more. The test is not intended to be a diagnostic tool by any means, it's simply aimed at consumers to be informative. No medical decisions should be based off this information, at least not without talking to a doctor or other healthcare professional. Instead, consumers should use the information as it's intended: to determine risk factors and help prepare for the future.
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