DNA-based personalized food choices to prevent Type 2 diabetes onset in test with Imperial College, London and Waitrose (UK)

Can DNA analysis and an app help prevent Type 2 diabetes onset in the pre-diabetic? The problem of preventing Type 2 diabetes in people determined to be pre-diabetic is multi-factorial, but one approach is diet to control 1) obesity and 2) improve glucose regulation. DnaNudge, which has developed a DNA analysis from a cheek swab, is being used in a clinical trial conducted by Imperial College London’s NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) Imperial Clinical Research Facility to determine whether DnaNudge’s scanner and app, used while shopping at Waitrose & Partners stores, can prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes in prone individuals.

To this Editor’s knowledge, this is the first time that personalized DNA testing and an app have been used in conjunction with retail food choices.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/MyDNA-Report-Sample.png” thumb_width=”125″ /][grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/product-feedback-recommended.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]How it works is that the individual’s DNA is analyzed first and then used to match what food choices are best for that person via a simple thumbs up or down indicator on the app. 

  • Using a sterile cotton swab, users sweep the inside of their cheek to capture a sample of saliva.
  • The swab is inserted in a processing cartridge plugged into the DnaNudgeBox, a small instant DNA analyzer
  • The analysis of specific genetic traits related to nutrition is completed in minutes and uploaded to the DnaNudge app on the smartphone via a wearable ‘capsule’, the DnaBand (left #1)
  • The wearer then can scan individual food items as that person shops, receiving the ‘thumbs up’ for good choices and ‘thumbs down’ for ones not so good, with alternatives suggested for the latter (left #2)

The 12-month clinical trial was launched last week, with Waitrose contacting customers in the North London area with information on how to take part. Professor Nick Oliver from Imperial College London, who is leading the clinical study at the NIHR Imperial Clinical Research Facility, stated in the release: “This key trial with DnaNudge allows us – for the very first time – to study in detail the outcomes of DNA-personalised food choices for pre-diabetic individuals, and to explore whether this type of accessible technology can deliver a proactive and sustainable solution to managing nutrition, and preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes in people at highest risk of this long-term condition.” It is not clear from the release whether there’s further information provided on the food choices or other education.

DnaNudge was co-founded by Regius Professor Professor of Engineering at Imperial College London Chris Toumazou and published geneticist and leukemia researcher Dr. Maria Karvela. Waitrose has staked out a healthy food position with the introduction of 100 Healthy Eating Specialists, shop floor specialists who direct customers who ask towards healthier choices. This tie-in is interesting, and if it works, this Editor can see it in use in a CVS-Aetna test or Walgreens, as both have edged into food retailing in many locations, albeit with not many apparent healthy choices, unless one considers Milky Ways fine food.

Soapbox: Big Genomics and DNA testing–why we need a Genomic Data Bill of Rights

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/DNA-do-not-access.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]This week, consumer genomics testing company 23andMe announced that outside app developers would no longer have access to raw genomic data, as they have had since 2012. They will continue to have access to data through reports generated by the company. 23andMe cited privacy concerns–wisely, in this Editor’s opinion, to safeguard this burgeoning area of digital health. Seeking Alpha

TimiHealth is an affected firm that seeks to move customer data, with consent, to an allegedly more secure blockchain platform, TimiDNA, citing 23andMe’s monetization of their data and CMS’ Blue Button initiative, a recent meeting in which 23andMe participated as a developer. Blasting away, TimiHealth stated that “It flies in the face of the mission of CMS, and the MyHealthEData initiative and the goal of putting patients first.” Release

However, the consumer marketing of DNA testers such as 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and smaller competitor Helix, has already led to multiple privacy questions on how the data of millions are being used and sold. 

This Editor would feel safe in assuming that most customers do not know nor particularly care that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as of July owns 50 percent of 23andMe via a $300 million investment. Both have announced a four-year partnership to use the 23andMe genetic database for drug research. For instance, the LRRK2 gene has been linked to some forms of Parkinson’s disease. GSK needs about 100 for a trial sample of one, but 23andMe has already provided 250 Parkinson’s patients who have agreed to be re-contacted for GlaxoSmithKline’s clinical trials. Scientific American

While most data is de-identified, you can agree to be contacted for further use in clinical trials, which is fine–but most users do not know how to opt out. It’s a surprisingly tricky process, as outlined in this useful Business Insider article, and you may not be able to withdraw all your data or have your saliva sample destroyed.

Data can be hacked and reprocessed. Three years ago, TTA explored reports on exactly how de-identified genomic data could be made identifiable through the ‘nefarious use’ of genomic data sets available through research networks [TTA 31 Oct 15].

Despite the trite, simplistic, and condescending commercials by Ancestry.com on how someone found they had ethnic or national roots they never dreamed of, or were related to royalty, both giving meaning to their presumably mundane life, genetic info has value beyond the feel-good. It’s long past time for a plain language Genomic Data Bill of Rights.

  • Individuals should know how their personal genomic data is being used and how it is being protected
  • They should be able to opt out of use, identified and de-identified, easily–and not have to jump through hoops
  • Reporting/interpretation should also have integrity, consideration, and respect that it may upset a person or that it may not be interpreted correctly, which is a fundamental problem 
  • A more radical view is that the same individuals should be compensated when their data is used

This Editor will settle for the first two bullets, for now.