Genetic Counselors and You Webinar Series: Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests

The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) has introduced a new webinar series, “Genetic Counselors and You” hosted by genetic counselors from a variety of fields. Webinars are live and the recording can be accessed later if you miss the streaming. Registration is free and open to the public.

The most recent webinar, “Ancestry and Other Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing: What to Consider Before Mailing that DNA”, was hosted by Brianne Kirkpatrick, MS, LGC. You can watch the recording here. (This topic is particularly timely with the recent news that the FDA has approved 23andMe to release genetic risk information on 10 conditions.)

Brianne Kirkpatrick founded Watershed DNA, which helps answer patient questions about online DNA tests from areas such as ancestry, genealogy, or health. She offers recommendations for where to test and provides support and reliable information. Kirkpatrick is a member of NSGC, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, and the National Genealogical Society.

To kick-off her webinar Kirkpatrick explains the process of ordering a direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic test and what types of tests are run on patient samples (ex: Karyotypes, Sanger Sequences, Microarray, Next Generation Sequencing). She covers the common information included in most DTC genetic test reports, such as an ethnicity estimate with a map of the world highlighting countries of origin, relationship identification of relatives, raw data files to upload to third party applications, and health and trait information.

Kirkpatrick's Key Points:

  • “DNA can tell you a lot of things… but your destiny is not one of them.” Which reminds us that direct-to-consumer tests are not inclusive of all information about your genetics.

  • "Read the fine print." Make sure you know what you are agreeing to when you consent to a test. Will your DNA be used in research? What information are you willing to find out in your report?

  • "Resources, support and learning exist; know how to find it." There are countless resources online to access. Through NSGC there is About Genetic Counselors and Find A Genetic Counselor along with their Twitter and Facebook Page.

The Big Four Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Testing Companies:

Kirkpatrick overviews the common business model for DTCs, the risks and benefits of partaking in DTCs and being a research participant. To wrap up, questions were taken from the audience about genetic testing for rare diseases, adoptees, and minors/children. Kirkpatrick also demystifies what we know about ethnicity percentage and variants of uncertain signficance (VUSs).

Register for the next “Genetic Counselors and You” webinar, “Genetic Testing and Pregnancy: A Genetic Counselor Guides You Through Your Options” on 4/25 (DNA Day!) at 8pm ET.