Field of Science

Promethease results

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to mention that 23andMe is having a sale today! Today only (Monday, April 11th), up-front fees (usually $199) are waived, so that all you have to pay is shipping and the $9/mo subscription service for 12 months. You save 2/3rds of the usual cost!

While browsing the 23andMe community forums this weekend, I found out that there are a bunch of projects and programs you can plug your raw data into to get independent genotype analyses. Some of these projects I'd heard of before by reading genetics blogs, but others I had not. One that caught my eye is Promethease, a program that you run from your computer which gives you results very similar to 23andMe's health section. It compares your raw data to the SNPedia wiki and gives you a summary of your results in an html file that is saved to your computer. Although the program uses information from the internet to interpret your data, your data and results are stored and processed on your computer, so none of your information is sent over the internet. There's an optional $2 donation (paid over for greater speed and extra features, which I opted to pay because a) I'm impatient and b) I like to support things that I find useful.

The interface is less user-friendly than 23andMe's graphical interface, but it is more in-depth. I doubt that casual users will want to bother with trying to make sense of it, but there are some gems to be found. The report starts with a list of your "most interesting" SNPs (I'd like to know what algorithm they use to determine the relative interestingness of a given SNP), which for me starts off by telling me that I'm female (thanks for noticing), and that I'm a carrier of hemochromatosis, which I already knew from 23andMe. However it does get more interesting from there:

Above I have extracted the analysis for an SNP in oxytocin receptors that has an association with empathy (click to enlarge). As you can see, I am an A;A homozygote at the OXTR gene. The name of the SNP on the left is clickable and will take you to the SNPedia page for that SNP. The SNPedia page for rs53576 includes links to papers that have studied the gene, a brief analysis of results, and even a link to Ed Yong's post covering the OXTR gene! On a personal note, I don't want children and have often been told that I have issues with understanding how my actions impact other people's feelings, so I don't find these results surprising. My boyfriend is a G;G homozygote and is much more empathetic than I am (and wants children way more than I do). Anecdotal evidence, yes, but corroborating evidence all the same.

Other things I learned from Promethease that weren't covered by 23andMe:
  • I am 7x less likely to respond favorably to antidepressants (I can vouch that this is true, I have been on several SSRIs and hated all of them).
  • I have a G allele at rs806380 that may protect me from becoming addicted to cannabis. That tremor in the force you just felt was millions of stoners rising up in anger at the idea that cannabis might be addictive, then suddenly silenced by the distractions of Halo Reach and stuffed crust pizza.
  • I am G;G homozygous at rs4570625. The bad news is that this SNP is associated with panic disorder in females, which I definitely, definitely have. The good news is that G;G homozygotes respond favorably to placebo therapy for their anxiety.
Overall, I'd say this was worth my $2. 23andMe does a better job of visualizing the results and combining related information into a cohesive package, but Promethease is so cheap (or even free, if you're willing to let it run for a few hours instead of 5 minutes) that it is worth the price or the wait if you're interested in getting a "second opinion" of sorts.


  1. That sale is quite tempting... I've been revising human evolutionary genetics recently and it's made me think I want to do something like this at some point. I'll have to save up though, international shipping is expensive!

    Also, I'm a bit confused as to what the $9/month actually pays for... their website isn't clear, can you illuminate me?

  2. From my understanding, the subscription allows you to receive updated information as new research comes out. There have been 3 or 4 updates since I got my results several months ago.

  3. Thanks for the tip. Looks awesome. And 23 and me should give you some referral bonus or something!

  4. The algorithm is simply a score that we as a community move up or down. If you see which feels 'out of order' in your report, we hope you'll make an edit to SNPedia and adjust the scores as seems right to you.

  5. Hey, thanks! I was wondering what the whole 'magnitude' thing was about but hadn't had time to look it up yet. That helps.


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