Personalized Genetics

Piggyback ride anyone? A boy carries a balloon on his back at a Lunar New Year fair in Hong Kong on Feb. 16, 2007. The Chinese New Year on Feb. 18 will mark the Year of the Pig. Saturday's Lunar New Year's Eve -- celebrated by one-fifth of the world's population -- is an occasion to have family feasts, buy new clothes and exchange red envelopes stuffed with gift money. MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

In part 2 of his series on personalized genetics research, CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews finds the do-it-yourself test market is growing like gangbusters.


Baby Allison Upchurch suffers a rare and potentially fatal genetic disorder. She's healthy now and can be treated, but what's remarkable is how her mother Donna found out.

Acting strictly on a whim, Donna used a do it yourself gene test and -- the Post Office.

"You let the blood dry and stick it in an envelope and mail it off," she explained.

Marty Schiff collected DNA from his cheek -- also for an at-home genetic test. It's for the disorder Hemochromatosis, which can cause the body to store lethal amounts of iron. His results will come to him directly, not his doctor or his insurance company.

"I'm in control, I don't have to have a doctors permission to get a genetic test. You do it and you send it back and they let you know whether you have a problem or not," he said.

This is the era of personalized genetics. The DNA test on baby Allison, done by the NEO GEN company, screens infants for 50 diseases -- in two days. Ever since the unraveling of the human genetic code, DNA products have hit the market fast.

One TV ad promotes a potentially lifesaving genetic test for the brac gene -- the gene that can signal a high risk for breast or ovarian cancer.

Another product, sold in department stores is a face cream tailored to a customer's DNA.

But the most unusual at home test could be the DNA Print Genonimcs ancestry kit.

You swab your cheek, you mail it in and the company will tell you your racial heritage

For anyone worried about putting genetic secrets in the mail, Donna Upchurch has a ready answer. "I'm fortunate enough to catch it at an early age. It saved her life."

Her baby is a glimpse of the future, a future when the medical destiny written in our genetic code is deciphered and comes by mail.



Read Part I Of Wyatt Andrews' Series
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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