At-home DNA testing can tell us which countries our ancestors lived in, or even our risk for certain diseases.
Now there’s an at-home DNA test to help people choose a roommate.
SpareRoom, a housing share website in the United Kingdom, is using DNA samples to match roommates based on their genomes.
The DNA Housemate Matchmaking Kit was launched along with Karmagenes, a DNA testing company based in Switzerland.
To participate, prospects visit SpareRoom’s Facebook page and sign up to receive a DNA kit. Then they provide a saliva sample and mail it in.
Along with an online personality test, the company says customers can see how their DNA influences their personality traits. They then receive recommendations on who to live with that are based on 14 characteristics, such as risk-taking, stress tolerance, optimism, and spontaneity.
According to a company statement, the findings can show that up to 60 percent of our personality is based on DNA — and the rest on environmental factors.
Erika Gray, PharmD, co-founder of Toolbox Genomics, which produces health-related DNA kits, said it’s more like a 70 percent vs. 30 percent split.
Other studies have indicated a similar notion, although experts have disagreed. Research from 2016 pinpointed genetic links between five main personality traits — including neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness to experience — and how they can have an impact on a person’s risk for certain psychiatric disorders.
The roommate test kit is just the latest in specific DNA home tests that can supposedly help you choose a diet or even produce a painting.
The question for some experts is: Do we really need some of these tests? And where’s all this headed?
Genome sweet home
According to SpareRoom, matching people using genetics can reveal complementary personality traits and boost the likelihood of positive group living environments.
“We want to help our users have the happiest experiences of sharing they possibly can, so we’re trialing DNA kits to see if we can bring a little science to bear on the process,” Matt Hutchinson, communications director at SpareRoom, said in a statement.
“There’s no such thing as the perfect flatshare, but understanding a little more about yourself, and knowing how to pick your flatmates to match your personality, will help you find the perfect balance for you,” he added.
“Together with environmental factors, behavioral genetics show that personality traits are indeed influenced by our DNA, making SpareRoom’s DNA Housemate Matchmaking kit a useful and meaningful social tool,” added Kyriakos Kokkoris, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Karmagenes.
“We’re excited at its potential to transform group living environments and even pave the way for the first house share, where all the housemates have been matched by genetics,” he said.
Dr. Reyzan Shali, a physician who’s associated with Scripps Coastal Medical Center in San Diego, is perplexed as to why someone would use DNA testing to find a roommate when they could simply communicate with potential candidates.
“I don’t see the necessity of applying this amazing science in this particular setting,” she told Healthline.
What’s next for DNA kits
Think finding a roommate via a saliva swab is a bit much?
Adrian Salamunovic, a Canadian who launched DNA11, produces art from DNA tests.
In addition to creating personalized artwork based on an individual’s genome, he serves as an advisor for Life DNA, which creates custom supplements and skin care lines.
The website Helix.com has an array of DNA test kits, including ones that are marketed as tailoring an exercise routine as well as crafting personalized scarfs.
Another company using at-home DNA testing sends you customized shakes to drink. After digesting the special shake, you send a blood sample and company officials will recommend diets based on your genome.
Gray said that people should know that the science generally isn’t too robust in non-health DNA kits.
“These tests should be considered a novelty,” she said.
Others, however, see some usefulness in these tests.
“People are starting to understand that the way they live affects their health,” said David Nicholson, co-founder and managing director of Living DNA, an ancestry DNA kit service. “Having a DNA test that shows in which areas your body has a weakness has the potential to transform our personal relationship with health.”
Privacy is an issue
At-home DNA test companies, such as 23andMe, have come under fire in recent years. Some have sold DNA test results to pharmaceutical companies. Customers say they were unaware their privacy could be jeopardized.
Most companies have a protective policy that includes anonymizing the results, where the name of the individual isn’t linked with the genetic data, so customers get an extra level of privacy, Gray said.
“Some companies will use the de-identified data to conduct research. However, people always have the option to opt out of that research,” Gray said.
Shivom is a new DNA testing company that promises to let people retain ownership over their data — and even rent it out anonymously so people can make money off their DNA data.
“There are good reasons to get your DNA sequenced beyond knowing a bit more about your ancestry,” Axel Schumacher, CEO of the company, told Healthline.
“Currently, there is a lack of genetic data available to researchers looking to find therapies and cures for some of the world’s most devastating diseases. If researchers around the world have access to a critical mass of DNA data, breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of many cancers and over 7,000 rare diseases that are genetic in origin will be closer to being found,” he explained.
Surprises in saliva
While some people are eager to try the tests, others are afraid of ramifications other than their DNA data being shared.
When Robyn Porter, a realtor from Maryland, bought AncestryDNA kits for family Christmas gifts, she had no idea what they’d uncover.
She found out she had a different biological father than she was led to believe, along with siblings that she never knew she had.
“I think at-home ancestry kids are fun in an interesting way to look at your lineage. But now I think folks really need to be aware that surprises could be found,” Porter told Healthline.