With sequencing costs dropping, it is likely that direct-to-consumer genetic services will soon include affordable whole-genome sequencing. Consumers who have familiarized themselves with the limitations of these data will be better equipped for the 3 gigabases of information that may soon come their way, according to the Editorial in the November issue of Nature Methods (6, 783; 2009). What is the right approach for direct-to-consumer genetic tests, asks the Editorial, given concerns about analytical validity, accuracy, clinical validity, clinical usefulness, helpfulness to consumers, and that the genetic variants tested for are actually associated with increased disease risk? Different countries are handling these issues in different regulatory and legislative ways, but the Editorial argues that a restrictive approach is not helpful, particularly given the huge range of genetic conditions and possible ‘tests’. Although companies should do more in terms of providing unbiased information to the public, it is up to the consumers to educate themselves about the benefits, risks and limitations.
The Nature Methods editors invite readers to discuss this Editorial at the journal’s blog, Methagora.