A Google-connected startup misdirected up to 96 genetic-test results, telling people their children were not their children, that their ancestors were not their ancestors and even that they were a different gender. Then came the panic and tears.
It took the startup, 23andMe, several days to respond to everyone who was affected. In the meantime, there was some serious angst, as first reported by the blog Genetic Future. One woman "started screaming" after she got her results:
Results in, my son is not my son?
... I checked my son's [results], it stated that he was a carrier for hemochromatosis, I was upset. How could he be a carrier and we weren't... He was not a match for any of us. I checked his haplogroup's and they were different from ours. I started screaming. A month before my son was born two local hospitals had baby switches. I panicked and I checked over and over...
I called my sister in tears. She being the pragmatic one instantly told me to stop crying. She reminded me we took a thousand pictures of his birth and every breath he took the first few months.'
A woman with Native American ancestry was told she was "100% European... global similarity placed me in the near/middle east," resulting in a phone call home: ""Ummm, Mom is there anything you'd like to tell me??" Another 23andMe user reported her husband, who is English, German and European, had been matched "with a gentleman... who is 100% Cuban." And then there was the fellow who was informed he had turned into a female (in fairness, he did suspect his gender switch might just be inaccurate).
All this madcap homewrecking fun just goes to underline that 23AndMe, like other genetic-testing companies, does not practice medicine, legally speaking. Instead it sells "recreational genomics." Which helps explain why its funding and office space comes from Google, the internet advertising machine started by its co-founder's husband, rather than, say, a health company or agency or institute. So remember: Always try to have a sense of humor about your grossly inaccurate genetic test results. It's only the blueprint of organic life we're talking about, here.
[Photo of 23andMe test materials, by Cédric Hüsler/Flickr]
Update: We originally forgot to credit TechCrunch, which is where we first saw the story, or Genetic Future, from whom TechCrunch originated it.