While his main talk was on "Maternal diversity in the Diaspora," Behar also spoke about Family Tree DNA's launch of a new genetic testing service company - DNATraits - to examine a customer’s DNA for evidence of genetic disease.
Why was the new company formed? If science can tell us whether we carry inheritable disorders, says Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, we have the right to know, for our own health and for the future of our families.
The company will develop additional programs for other disorders (Sickle Cell Anemia will be added soon) as tests become available, and already offers general tests of interest to Western European populations and for clotting disorders.
But for members of our tribe, the most important panel offered is for 26 Ashkenazi disorders.
Most Jews have heard about Tay-Sachs, a particularly tragic genetic disorder, that has been nearly eradicated through intensive community testing programs. In the 1970s, there were some 40 cases a year. Today there are only four or five cases a year - a 90% reduction, thanks to extensive genetic testing.
However, this is only one of 26 genetic disorders generally affecting Jews of Ashkenazi origin. What DNATraits offers, among other services, is a panel of all 26 for $450, a fraction of the cost of just a few tests done through other institutions and organizations. (DNAdirect's website shows its testing panel of only nine Ashkenazi disorders carries a $1,200 pricetag.)
The DNATraits Ashkenazi panel includes Bloom, Canavan, Cystic Fibrosis, Gaucher, Niemann-Pick, Tay-Sachs Disease and 20 others. For specific information on the panel, click here.
Individuals who aren't sure which test or tests are most appropriate can consult with the company's genetic counselor free of charge. Importantly, the company agrees with recommendations of the American College of Medical Genetics in its statement on direct-to-consumer genetic testing:
“It is critical that individuals ask for a referral to a genetic expert who can help in determining what tests might be advisable and in interpreting results.” In accordance with this recommendation, DNATraits offers consultation with our genetic counselors at no charge both before and after testing.
Greenspan wants people to be tested and to have their children and grandchildren tested before marriage to attempt to lessen occurences. If people learn whether they are carriers or not, they can make informed decisions prior to pregnancy.
Privacy is of utmost importance to the company, and insurance reimbursements are not accepted as this might impact privacy issues.
The site offers quicklinks to an Introduction to Inheritance, the testing process, FAQs and more.
For more information on DNATraits, click here.