Research and Creative Projects

Learn About Yourself: The Ins and Outs of AAT Deficiency and 23 & Me

Simba Kanjanda ’22, Biology

Group project with Kyle Berardi, Brady Antolick, Maciel Marcos, Zoe Cougoul, Tyler Reilly, Andrew Keris, and Jon Moldoff

The Research:
The goal of the project is to not only understand the science and business of 23 & Me through individual investigation, but to also learn from each other. The project is done collaboratively between a biology and marketing group of students. In addition to this, the project prompts us to consider the ethical implications of the science and business of 23 & Me.

The Impact:
As a biology major and aspiring healthcare provider, I know that this will not be the only time I will come across the field of genomics and the application of our knowledge of DNA to address genetic diseases such as Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. One of my closest faculty members here at Ursinus shared with me that they have AAT deficiency prior to this project. Taking on this project after becoming aware of this information gave me more incentive to learn about it. As much as I found the services of 23 & Me interesting (it gives information about health + ancestry, or ancestry + traits), this project also made me consider some ethical concerns related to the attainment of individuals’ genomes by the company. Whilst it is desirable and beneficial to know about the unique characteristics that are imbedded in our DNA, it is also worth giving some thought that a company gains access to all the information that defines a person. It is also worth thinking that the more the genomes the company can obtain, the more diverse their database becomes, resulting in more accurate results and information for future customers. My biggest takeaway is that more people should be educated about the work that 23 & Me does. There should be full transparency about all their operations and their use of DNA because I believe that the work that they do is ultimately beneficial to the greater society in terms of medical advancement and human development if carried out safely and with integrity.