Are they really your genes?

by jeeg 7. June 2010 20:15

23andMe recently announced that at least 96 customers received the wrong genetic information after a sample mix-up in its LapCorp testing facility. The problem seems to have been first detected by the personal genomics company’s customers, who noticed some puzzling results when they checked their test outcomes online.


While 23andMe contacted all affected customers known to clear up the error, it has been criticized for taking too long to respond to questions and concerns. This incident has also revealed the surprising lack of basic quality control to double check that results make sense before sending them to customers. 23andMe has announced it will implement more rigorous procedures to minimize the risk of another mistake. However, as other direct-to-consumer companies enter the market with faster, cheaper tests which are intended to process many more samples, the problem of sample switching is likely to grow.


The distress of one customer highlights reasons for concern:


Still upset I checked family inheritance and noticed my daughter shared with me, and then I checked my son's. He was not a match for any of us. I checked his haplogroup's and they were different from ours. I started screaming. A month before my son was born two local hospitals had baby switches. I panicked and I checked over and over. My kid's were sitting at the computer because we all wanted to see the results. My son laughed but he looked upset. I called my sister in tears.



It’s true that in all medical diagnostics, samples sometimes get switched – from simple blood tests to more complicated biopsies, it just sometimes happens. And, for the most part, this kind of human error can’t be entirely eliminated. But when it comes to genetic testing, and especially DTC testing, the potential trauma of a sample mix-up is one more reason why the questionable benefits may not be worth the risks.

(Additional information inc 23andme's full statement can be found here)


Magdalina Gugucheva


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