Sunday, March 23, 2008

A glimpse of the future or modern snake oil?

The newest gimmick in the world of mental illness? At-home genetic testing kits claiming to diagnose bipolar disorder mailed to your doorstep for just $399.

While I am firmly optimistic that medical professionals will eventually be able to diagnose bipolar disorder with something more accurate than the current nebulous methodology, I don't think researchers are quite there yet. And because bipolar disorder actually describes a broad spectrum of behaviors and pathologies, a test like this is of limited utility because it inevitably has a high error rate, diagnosing only those genetic manifestations this one researcher has identified and leaving the rest undiagnosed.

Right now, this kind of thing is a waste of money. But in ten years, it might be the standard of care. Genetic research and diagnosis will revolutionize medicine in our lifetimes. We're just not there quite yet.