The Granite Tower
Gene Kits—Information for All
Song Yeon Soo  |
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승인 2017.10.05  20:08:34
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The roots of the family, potential illnesses, and the appearance of your future offspring are all information that can be retrieved from analyzing a drop of saliva using a gene kit available for purchase from 23&Me. Such advanced scientific scrutiny might seem unaffordable and inaccessible to be conducted at home. However, with the development of affordable genetic kits, a thorough breakdown of one’s genetic characteristics has become much less demanding. Such accessibility may have its drawbacks,

When one sends a part of their specimen to the science lab, the analysts then send back sheets of genetic data that can be used in improving the clients’ lifestyle—whether one’s body is susceptible to a certain type of illness or has a high potential of becoming obese or is lactose intolerant. 

Genetic kits in general ask for the customers’ consent in using their genetic data for research purposes and update such information with regular surveys on the website. Although there may be criticisms that no one would agree to share their information, that fact is that, in the case of 23&Me, 85 percent of the people have agreed to share their information. This is proof that people are constantly willing to provide their information for worthy causes. 

On the flip side, what concerns the general public is the accessibility of the kits, which is ironically the whole purpose of the product. Some claim that, since they can be purchased by anyone, people with the intention of exploiting their genetic data can use them for unethical ends, such as genetically modifying their children’s genes to create the most ideal version of them—an action that can cause serious disruption on the definition of what it means to be human. 

However, such tragedies are still far from occurring, as the information provided by the kits are not verified as official medical data from any medical institution. Therefore, although one can certainly refer to the data to set up their dietary plans for enhancing one’s health, they are not authorized as credible information—thus making them invalid—when consulting with a certified doctor. 

Companies that sell these kits profit not from the sales of the kits themselves, but mostly from their massive storage of information. In the limitless and largely undiscovered world of genetic research, a strong database is a mandatory component. Research institutes that look for new medication or treatments for incurable diseases can simply pay to gain access to this massive database of companies selling the kits. 

Moreover, the accessibility of information from the kits lowered the price researchers and customers have to pay. The lowering of the price facilitated access to useful genetic information and, therefore, made the information far more approachable than the past. Such democratic usage of data has made it possible for medical research organizations to speed up their research process. 

Not only have the kits saved the researchers’ money, they have also saved the researchers’ time by providing them with more analyzed, not raw, data. Before the emergence of the genetic kits, not many organizations, including the official government health departments, provided genetic data, let alone analyzed data, for the fear of inaccuracy. However, thanks to the detailed, pre-analyzed data that the kits provide, the researchers do not require an additional stage of analysis. 

In the end, the benefits run in a full circle. Customers can refer to their genetic information when managing healthy lifestyles for themselves, companies can profit by selling the kits coupled with the data, and finally the research companies can speed up their research with a cheaper, broader spectrum of data. The results of the research looking for cures will eventually benefit the customers as well as everyone in return. It is a three-way win-win business that will continue to thrive, as data ceaselessly piles on top of each other every second.
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