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buster


Buster Benson

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qtrait.com
bird poops on plum branch
buster
I beta tested a new genetic testing product called qtrait.  Jana and Ivan helped build the website, so I got in early.  The DNA bootcamp slides Jana drew are adorable.

They send you a little vial and you spit in it, seal it, mix it with a liquid, and mail it back, and 3 weeks later they email you a link to your results in a super anonymous and secret way so that your identity can never be tracked back to your results.  I'm a night-owl, won't be obese when I'm older, enjoy drinking, and may be susceptible to certain chemical addictions.  In addition, I'm at low risk for asthma, high risk for eczema and glaucoma, can taste bitter flavors, am not lactose intolerant, can perceive certain special odors, and tend toward tall-ness.  I suggested that they throw in eye and hair color to build trust with the results, since I would like to have some easily falsifiable data to compare the results to.

It's pretty cool.  I signed up for all of the tests to be done, but you can select certain groups of tests like allergies, addictions, pregancy-related, physical characteristics, etc.

Two of my friends helped build this site, so I got a good deal on the package.  It'll be interesting to see if people are willing to pay big bucks for this information.  Personally, I'd like to have more scary information thrown in.  Paying big bucks makes you want a thrill... tell me if I'm gonna go all bonkers when I get old, or if I'm gonna go bald, or if I'm gonna be abducted by aliens.

I of course volunteered to be their guinea pig for anything that they can use me for.  I hope they take me up on it.

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I don't suppose they could use some more guinea pigs, could they?

which of these findings would you not have been able to know without a genetic test?

as much as I hope that your friends do well, I also hope that people are not willing to throw away big bucks on this stuff (yet). The science is too new and too uncertain. Even for believable findings (of which there are more and more), it's not clear that there is anything to be done about the results.

But if you really want to find out everything, pay http://23andme.com or http://decodeme.com a thousand dollars and every time a new genetic association is published you can check to see if you carry the risk allele.

23andme will sell your genetic info to drug companies. QTrait will never do that. As for paying for more scary tests it seems unethical to do that without giving them genetic counseling. I checked out the 23andme site and they don't even have the breast cancer tests which I would expect if I'm paying a thousand dollars.

I haven't spent much time looking at decodeme so I can't comment.

As for the science being too new QTrait only uses the tests that have the science to back them. And there is a great Wired article about 23andme and the state of genomics if you are interested: http://www.wired.com/medtech/genetics/magazine/15-12/ff_genomics

Cool! I disagree that it's too crazy and new to be worth the money. The real catch, to me, is that multiple types of tests should be done if a person really wants to corroborate certain risks. Saliva tests are great for lot of things that blood tests aren't, and urine and stool can be used to verify various things those show. Even hair and fatty tissue. You can test all over the place, and that's where things can get really expensive, confusing and accurate.

Come one guinea pig, come all!

(Anonymous)
Buster,
I know you only through Jana, Ivan and your blog, but I already worship you. Thanks for being a guinea pig and thanks for your suggestions. The hair-color eye-color controls are awesome, but the science isn't quite good enough to support the concept yet.

But, how about ear wax (sticky-goooey or dry-crumbly)? It's a really well studied trait and you can check yourself, or have a REALLY good friend do it for you, if you're into that.
Also, the bitter-tasting/sweet-tasting thing is one that people can check themselves.
We will just make these automatic controls to go with everybody's order.

Lastly, the scary stuff. The short answer is, we're working on it, but want to do it right.

The long answer: It's a big debate in my little scientist heart. On the one hand, I believe information wants to be free, and everybody should have access to their own genetic info. No more hiding data behind doctors and egg-head scientists with our big vocabulary and complex data models. The field needs a little transparency.

On the other hand, we really don't want this information to hurt people, and some of it can be hurtful. Some scientists just published a case study in Science about this.
The scientific community is in a tizzy.

All things considered, I will point out that 120,000 people a year die in car-related accidents, and we still let people drive. So I'm thinking we need to let people look at their own DNA, even if it's risky.

I'll let you know when we need more game people for those traits too!

Thanks heaps,
Tera Eerkes
Founder of QTrait.com





Re: Come one guinea pig, come all!

Oh yes, ear wax. I think my ear wax is gooey like the test says, but I haven't really compared it to other peoples' a whole lot. I think maybe I should. What's a good way to taste the bitter/sweet thing?

I think having a section that's simply about "how to verify your results using small self-experiments" might be great... tell us how to verify the really easy ones, and maybe ways that we can apply some of the other results as well.

Yeah I heard about that study. But I agree with you that the field needs transparency, and if anyone's got a curiosity or desire to learn information that might hurt us, it's us. It's the direction the future seems to be leading at least. But I suspect that it's going to be a bit of a public tizzy for a while.

I love what you're building. Qtrait is great. And I look forward to participating in whatever way I can in the future. Seriously, let me know!

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