What’s up, I’m Destin, this is Smarter Every Day. You’ve probably heard of 23andme. It’s one of these companies where you spit in the tube and you mail it off and they do DNA testing and give you ancestry and health data. Well, here’s the deal They approached me and asked me if I would make a video on Smarter Every Day about them, and what they do But there’s a problem with that I’m really fascinated with this technology like I think this is the future of medicine. Imagine a doctor walking into your room opening a chart and saying “Oh well I can’t give you this drug because you’re genetically predisposed to a negative reaction” That is the future of medicine so I really believe this is important however I can’t do an ad for something this important and have you the viewer think that I’m just shilling for a company and saying what they want me to say because they’re giving me money, so I set up the following terms. I said, look, I’ll do this video if, number one, I get to ask any question I want of anybody and I get to say whatever I want as long as it’s true And they said yes to that and number two I want access to the labs with my camera And I want to be able to ask the scientist questions, and they said yes to that and that never happens ! That’s awesome. And number three I told them I actually wanted them to sponsor the video Which they did so to their credit, 23andMe is sponsoring a transparent video which is a little scary for them because they have no idea what I’m gonna say. So here we go, Let’s do this. When you get the kit. It’s pretty clear how this exchange works. I give up genetic material, and I get health and ancestry data back, but that’s scary I don’t know what they’re gonna do with my sample I don’t know exactly what I’m giving up. When I ask people on Twitter, everybody cited privacy concerns, so just for a second let’s pretend that we can’t trust this company we need to go to an independent third-party expert that knows exactly what type of information we’re giving up when we spit in a tube and mail it to 23andMe So when a lot of people think about, Huntsville, Alabama, they think about the space industry like the Saturn 5, right ? But what you didn’t know if you get on Google Maps and go to 601 Genome Way, you’re gonna see a double helix you can see from space. That is this place. No joke. Huntsville, Alabama is home to one of the largest DNA sequencing centers in the entire world and it’s in my hometown like I see these people at PTA meetings. The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is where Dr. Neil Lamb, a PhD in human genetics works. We’re go in here and learn about DNA sequencing. Hey, are you Neil ?
NEIL>>I am DESTIN>>Hey, I’m Destin.
NEIL>>Nice to meet you DESTIN>>Nice to meet you, yeah
NEIL>>Welcome to HudsonAlpha DESTIN>>Chris nice to meet you guys Hey, how you guys doing, you doing all right?
NEIL>>Welcome to the Institute.
DESTIN>>Yeah, thank you. This is fancy. NEIL>>Is this your first time here ?
DESTIN>>No actually I upload stuff to the YouTube channel here because you have the fastest internet connection in the city Did you know I did that?
NEIL>>So we’re headed to the genome sequencing center which is the all of the sequencing machines that we have at HudsonAlpha. DESTIN>>Ok, so these are the sequencers right full-blown DNA sequencing.
NEIL>>These are DNA sequencers This is really the heart of HudsonAlpha. These machines are designed to take an individual or an organism to sequence it’s broken up into small pieces and the sequence A’s T’s C’s G’s…
DESTIN>>for the entire genome?
NEIL>>for the entire genome.
DESTIN>>Like how much data are we talking there, in bytes? NEIL>>So the raw data that comes out of this machine is about 80 gigabytes of information for one human genome. DESTIN>>Okay, this explains why the fastest internet node in the city is it HudsonAlpha.
NEIL>>That is correct DESTIN>>Does 23andMe have like a bank of machines like this ?
NEIL>>23andMe uses a completely different technology for genotyping DESTIN>>So what’s the difference in genotyping and full-blown DNA sequencing ?
NEIL>>So to answer that question let me show you another illustration. This is a representation of your genome. There’s a hundred notebooks on the bookshelf, and I want you to imagine that each of those notebooks, has 5000 double-sided pages full of nothing but DNA sequence.
DESTIN>>Adenine, cytosine, thymine and guanine.
NEIL>>Exactly right so you’ve got two copies that copy you inherited from your mom and the copy you inherited from your dad. So this is a representation of one of those two copies the amount of information that you’re gonna get from 23andMe is not all three billion bits of information. Instead, it’s more like about 90 pages.
DESTIN>>Really? Now, what’s the difference in genotyping and just doing a DNA sequence, what’s the difference in those two things? NEIL>>Right, in DNA sequencing, I’m reading through every single letter in your genome. With genotyping, I’m going to a specific place, and I’m saying at this one site, what do you have? And with genotyping I’m doing that… well for 23andMe they’re doing that at about 600,000 sites across your genome.
DESTIN>> So it’s not like you’re giving away your entire DNA sequence when you do something like this.
NEIL>>That’s right You’re only giving away a tiny fraction of your genetic information when you do something like 23andMe.
DESTIN>>Okay, Got it this it’s not your entire sequence I thought it was I thought they were gonna be Destin clones walking the streets But if you do the math it’s only 0.02% of your sequence. That’s a game-changer They should like put that on the website or something. Okay, was at this point that I was invited to an education summit headquarters in Mountain View, California. My wife, who’s really smart when it comes to genetics, insisted that she take my place for reasons, I’ll let her explain TARA>>I am a medical professional as someone who’s done genetic research in the past and wanted to know if it would benefit you guys there were if it would harm you guys So I’m here !
DESTIN>>This part is super cute to me because she doesn’t like to be on camera that much But I asked her to vlog just a little bit She went and talked to professors and researchers from all over the country And they discussed the different benefits and risks of doing this type of testing both on the individual level and its overall implications for society The main thing she learned is that the optional questions are the key. When people answer the question scientists can start to figure out what genotypes affect what traits. We decided, as a family, that we want to contribute to the overall genetic body of knowledge because that’s going to help society in the future. Okay, after you decide to spit you were about to send your genetic information off to a third party. Kind of scary… so a set up an email address Specifically to do the kit and it’s pretty interesting because there’s no return address so really the only indicator for which tube is mine is this 14 digit code. I spit in the tube, you’re smart, you can figure that part out and you write down that 14 digit code on the tube and link that to the email address and that goes to 23andMe headquarters. The kit however, does not go to 23andMe headquarters it goes to LabCorp, a completely different company after doing some research I discovered that 23andMe has isolated themselves physically from the samples. LabCorp has samples and numbers 23andMe has email addresses and numbers I decided to spit in this thing and then chase it out to California to see what happens when it hits the door of the lab. This is the first time LabCorp allowed someone like me into the lab with a camera I was introduced to the lab manager Amanda Douglas and was told I could film anything and ask any question I wanted AMANDA>>So we’re at the National Genetic Institute DESTIN>>National Genetics Institute okay.
AMANDA>>It’s a subsidiary of LabCorp. DESTIN>>No way is that the FedEx guy that brings brings the stuff in? What’s up, man? Do you bring all the samples here?
FedEx Guy>>Yes I do.
DESTIN>>Nice to meet you man. This is way more behind the scenes than I thought it was gonna be AMANDA>>This is a small batch so we open them by hand but with larger batches there’s a conveyor belt DESTIN>>Really?
AMANDA>>And that will cut them open DESTIN>>And so you open them and you… Oh! He’s actually got the sample, okay, so what’s your name man?
DESTIN>>Lonnie, I’m Destin, man Nice to meet you. All right, so we got our spit in the system now what? AMANDA>>Alright, so now that the spit is in the system, we’ll know… ok, let’s go ahead and test the ones that are ready to test and then they’ll move on to the lab.
DESTIN>>Is that where we’re going now?
AMANDA>>That’s where we’re going now. DESTIN>>Sweet. These are all specimens here. So Lonnie has done his thing, we come in here, and we’re ready to extract the DNA.
AMANDA>>That’s right. DESTIN>>Okay
AMANDA>>So we’ll go on here DESTIN>>Oh, this is so rad… Oh god ! This is like from the future. What are you guys doing?
LAB TECHNICIAN>>I’m currently uncapping specimen sample, to be able to put them into the Tecan which will then take a little small amount of this into the 96-well plate. DESTIN>>Okay, so these machines are autonomously taking the samples out of the specimen tube that people mailed in and then it’s Automatically putting those into the 96-well plate. That’s what we’re doing Got it. Okay, so this is the first time where we no longer have humans touching it, and we’re moving towards machine automated process.
LAB TECHNICIAN>>Exactly. DESTIN>>Is that it? I would high-five you, but you get gloves on. I spent the entire day with Amanda learning the whole process and basically it works like this. First they isolate the DNA and then they amplify it by allowing it to replicate and then the magic happens. This chip is the secret to genotyping. Basically they take the DNA, and they unzip the double helix which leaves you with one side of a ladder rung they then put this unzipped DNA onto the chip which has thousands of artificial DNA probes on it these probes are basically long stretches of DNA that match known parts of the human genome So when a ladder comes along and gets beside the probe it’s a perfect match and will bind to it Since this stretch of DNA is a known sequence you can then read the next base pair That’s hanging off of the probe and that’s the specific information for that base pair They do this by a fluorescent marker that they’ll put on the chips which reacts to different kinds of light these specific locations are chosen because they’re associated with something interesting like a disease risk or a physical trait this fancy machine illuminates the chips and takes a picture, which tells you what letter you have at that particular DNA snip Or single nucleotide polymorphism, and that’s it. That’s how the data is captured the next thing I wanted to know is what happens after your sample is tested. On the website, you could choose to allow lab core to keep the sample on long-term storage for future testing or You can check a box and tell them to destroy it I asked Amanda if she would show me this because a lot of people want to know if they check that box It’s actually gonna happen. Amanda has agreed to show me the process. It’s really exciting I’m told.
AMANDA>>Oh Yeah, you’re in for an excitement here, so we take a box of 120 samples that we’ve scanned and said “this sample is to be discarded”, the customer does not want to store it long-term So once they’re ready to be discarded. We’ll take the samples and throw them in to the trash And we simply toss them into the trash pour the whole box in the trash. DESTIN>>That’s it?
DESTIN>>And then what happens to it? Like you I really expect you that you’re hiding the samples somewhere, right? You’re gonna do something crazy with them, right? AMANDA>>We just throw them away.
DESTIN>>And they go and they are destroyed at a biomedical waste facility.
DESTIN>>So we’re kind of goofing around here but it is important, so she showed me the entire process the samples are consolidated They’re kept under lock and key, and they’re picked up daily It’s legit. So I am satisfied with the process obviously 23andMe knew I would be satisfied or they wouldn’t have allowed me to do this, but it was really fun to anyway I really enjoyed the ancestry data a lot more than I thought I would I elected to talk to my dad about it We had a really good discussion, and we actually learned things about our family together. The health stuff is interesting though. It is your responsibility to understand what those results mean and to get a better handle on this I decided to go talk to Dr. Lamb again the unbiased third party at HudsonAlpha.
NEIL>>I found the information really fascinating it gave me some insight into myself But I’m… I have a background in human genetics That’s my PhD so I got all the nuances I understood what that means and what that doesn’t mean
DESTIN>>So what you’re saying is even if someone does 23andMe and they get that information about their own body, it’s important to go the next step and understand what you’re learning about your body? That’s what you’re saying.
NEIL>>and to bring your medical doctor into those conversations and to make sure that your doctor understands the nuances of genetics as well. They’re a piece of information and you’ve got to make sure you understand what that piece can and can’t tell you and in a lot of cases you have the Decision you can make the decision do I want to even know this information? Or do I want to not look at that part of my report.
DESTIN>>Got it okay and to be clear Neil has nothing to do with 23andMe.
DESTIN>>Okay, so that’s an unbiased third-party opinion Thank you for that.
NEIL>>My pleasure. DESTIN>>Okay, in summary. I was concerned about privacy. I went to the lab I am no longer concerned about privacy. They’ve got a good handle on that. You were concerned about the data the benefits outweighing the risks do you feel like it does?
TARA>>I do feel like the information is helpful for Society as a whole as well as the individual
DESTIN>>Okay, and there’s three things you said you wanted to bring up TARA>>I did. One, I want you to realise that just because report says that you have a marker It doesn’t mean you’re gonna get that means like you’re more or less likely to have that trait. Number two only gather the information that you think you can handle so if you think hey I’m not sure I want to know that then then wait.
DESTIN>>Some people only do the ancestry thing because they don’t want to know those health risks TARA>>Right and three you need to realize that it’s a family affair. I mean once you find out your data You’re it’s really your family’s data So you may have to make decisions on whether you should share that information with your Mother and father or brother and sister or whether you shouldn’t.
DESTIN>>If this is something you want to do you can go to 23andme.com/smarter, get a tube spit in it send it off and get your data back if you want to do that feel free to if not no big deal Thank you to 23andMe for actually letting us more or less investigate their company and being so transparent that was pretty cool. Nobody’s ever gone into the lab like that before you think it’s a good thing TARA>>I think it’s a fun thing yeah. DESTIN>>Anyway, I’m Destin you getting smarter every day. It’s my wife Tara That’s it. Have a good one Bye. No private or health information about any individual was recorded or shared in the making of this video I am gonna try to vlog for the first time. I’m not comfortable on camera, so this should be pretty interesting. Even in the screen and it’s not if I guess oh, I keep looking at the screen you are going to I keep looking at the screen I’m not good at this Okay next