23andMe to Customers: Oh Wait, Those Are Somebody Else's Genes

By Joseph Calamia | June 9, 2010 4:20 pm

23andmeHad her baby been switched at birth in a hospital mishap? That’s what one mother thought after getting her child’s results from the personal genetics testing company 23andMe and finding that his genetic profile was inconsistent with the rest of the family’s. After she finished screaming and crying, she contacted the company. Sorry for the inconvenience, she was told–we just mixed up his sample.

The company that asks clients to spit in vials is now putting its foot in its mouth: it gave up to 96 customers a look at the wrong genes. 23andMe posted an apology, viewable only to clients, on their website.

The Los Angeles Times also published the statement, which blamed the snafu on a processing error at a contractor lab:

“Up to 96 customers may have received and viewed data that was not their own. Upon learning of the mix-ups, we immediately identified all customers potentially affected, notified them of the problem and removed the data from their accounts. The lab is now concurrently conducting an investigation and re-processing the samples of the affected customers and their accurate results will be posted early next week.”

23andme2The statement also says that, pending the results of their investigation, they will “adopt corrective action as warranted,” but states that “23andMe’s personal genetics service remains proven and sound.”

23andMe says the tests can show customers whether they’re at risk for certain diseases, and can reveal their ties to ancestors. While lab mix-ups happen, we’re thankful these tests were not used on impressionable college freshman, suspected cheating spouses, or for sentencing criminals.

Related content:
Discoblog: Welcome, UC Berkeley Freshmen! Now Hand Over Your DNA Samples
80beats: 5 Reasons Walgreens Selling Personal DNA Tests Might Be a Bad Idea
80beats: No Gattaca Here: Genetic Anti-Discrimination Law Goes Into Effect
DISCOVER: Who’s Your Daddy?

Image: flickr / nosha / juhansonan

  • http://math-frolic.blogspot.com Shecky Riemann

    maybe they’ll re-name the company 23andmurphy…

  • geeta

    Profiling like these are best when done only out of curiosity, rather than to check the ‘authenticity’ of a relative; else, it will only add to the list of reasons to be unhappy. The only time it could be useful otherwise is in double checking on the new-born’s identity before taking the baby out of the hospital.


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