A news piece by Jennifer Couzin in the Feb. 22 Science notes that starting in about a month, for ~$400, you can send a saliva sample to Smart Genetics in Philadelphia for their "Alzheimer's Mirror" test that determines whether you have a variant of the APOE gene that indicates a risk of Alzheimer's that's 3 to 15 times higher than normal. The company plans plan to screen out those who seem emotionally unstable and provide a genetic counseling session by telephone before giving out APOE results.
Not surprisingly many physicians and researchers are expressing reservations about making this gene test widely available. What are the mental health consequences of being told you may get a disease that's neither preventable nor treatable and is invariably fatal? (It's the only genetic information that James Watson, the DNA discoverer who recently had his entire genome sequenced, kept secret.) Would it turn out that people who had this information were more likely experience depression?
An officer at Smart Genetics argues that knowing one is at higher risk might trigger practical responses, including regular memory screenings or making certain financial decisions such as buying long-term care insurance.