I recently used 23 and Me to test my DNA for a whole battery of genetic markers to understand my increased or decreased risk of various genetic conditions. I essentially found that I am:

  • a mighty fine specimen of genetic health
  • a slow caffeine metabolizer
  • greatly increased odds of floxacillin toxicity
  • decreased risk for Type 1 Diabetes and Alzheimers
  • have no bad variants of the 50 or so inherited conditions tested for
  • not resistant to HIV
  • a wet earwax type (as opposed to a dry)….gross
  • 3% Neanderthal (at the 95th Percentile!!!)

Super interesting stuff. And nice to know that I have a much higher likelihood of living to 100 than the general population. I was kind of nervous about these results. It’s nice to know that I probably won’t die of some horrible neurodegenerative disease early in life.

This reminds me of Woody Guthrie. Woody died of Huntington’s Disease, an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease. This means that if one of your parents have the defective gene, you have a 50/50 shot of developing the disease. However, Huntington’s shows up in your 40 or 50s or so and you slowly die. During the many year process of Woody wasting away, he wrote about 5,000 songs— he couldn’t play the guitar so he wrote just the lyrics, not the music. Nora Guthrie, his daughter, invited Wilco and Billy Bragg to browse all the songs and choose their favorite lyrics and write music for them. And Mermaid Avenue was created. One of my favorite songs of all time, California Stars, is on that record. The interesting part of the Woody Guthrie story is that his children, Nora and Arlo, both decided not to get tested for Huntington’s. They were afraid they’d live their life differently if they knew they would eventually die an early death.