Saturday, February 26, 2011

Interview with Your Genetic Genealogist - Broadcast to over 50 million Japanese households

They came all the way from Japan to interview a handful of people from Stanford, Illumina, the FDA, the American Society of Genetic Counselors guessed it,  me!  :-)

Earlier this month producers and crew from NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation came to my home to tape a segment on personal genomics. (NHK is similar to PBS or the BBC.) The story is for a weekly news/documentary program entitled, CLOSE-UP TODAY. The entire program on one Saturday will be dedicated to genetic testing with a focus on DTC genetic testing.  As I understand it, the goal for this segment is to educate the Japanese public on DTC testing. I expect it to be a well rounded show since they were planning on interviewing the FDA, Illumina, physicians at Stanford University, a genetic testing company and genetic counselors. There will be some interviews with Japanese doctors and patients in the program as well. 

DTC genetic testing is still very rare in Japan, but there are companies starting to offer genetic tests to consumers there. They told me that the Japanese people tend to be pessimistic and give up easily when it comes to illness. In Japan, until recently, doctors and family members didn't even tell a person that he/she is terminally ill. Many Japanese people are concerned about getting a genetic test and feel they will be worried about their health all the time and get depressed if they find out they are at higher risk for certain diseases. Apparently, some Japanese physicians are also concerned about how to deal with genetic test results. The producers feel that consumers who take DTC tests need to know how to deal with their results and physicians also need to be trained to work with patients who come to them with test results. They want to encourage the Japanese public to be more positive and proactive in dealing with medical issues. 

The producers intend to show what the DTC genetic testing market is like in the US and demonstrate how Americans can be positive and proactive in dealing with test results, as well as what the experts are saying. They plan on using screenshots from my 23andMe account on air and I walked them through the large amount of health information and resources available from 23andMe. We also discussed some of the actions that I have taken due to my genetic test results.

They were here for a number of hours and we had a very enjoyable afternoon.  I don't know how much of it will make it past the editing room, but we had the opportunity to film a lot of really positive, constructive information. I, of course, could talk about this subject for hours! By the time we were finished, it seemed that all my visitors were interested in testing themselves. In fact, the director even offered to buy one of my unused 23andMe kits!

The show is scheduled to air on March 7th, but that could change depending on foreign affairs at that time. I wish I could ask all of you to watch it, but since I don't think many of my readers are in Japan, it would be in vain.  I have been promised a copy of the show and hope to be able to share it with you all at a later date.


  1. My husband was born in Japan, but came to the US at age 10. I did the Family Tree "Y" testing for our son, and he did not have a single match. In Japan, if a family has no male children, but their daughter marries a second or third son of another family - there may be an "adult adoption" to continue the family name. My mother-in-law had 4 brothers, but one had a different surname, having been adopted by his in-laws. Maybe some Japanese males will be less interested in testing, a direct surname line may be difficult. But, my son (and so his dad) tested as "ethnic minority Chinese". I hope the interest goes up in Japan - my husband's birth father remained there, as did a half brother and sister. Would be nice to maybe find what happened to them, some day.

  2. Hi addien,
    Thanks for your interesting comment.
    We discussed that the ancestry aspect of genetic testing may not be as meaningful for the Japanese due to the lack of admixture there, and thus may not be as marketable. However by the time we were finished with the interview, all of the Japanese members of the production team seemed interested in discovering what they could learn from their more ancient ancestry. So, maybe there is hope for genetic genealogy in Japan and other Asian countries.

  3. Interesting post CeCe. I have an Asian friend I often pester to get tested. He says he will just confirm he is Asian! lol.. I'd love to see the show when you get a copy. Post it on your blog if you can.
    - Bill

  4. well, well, well!!...
    congrats to you.

  5. @Salabencher - that is usually what I hear as well. However, it may be interesting to see just how similar (or dissimilar) Asians from various countries and regions are. I have been told that some of the old guard would not like it if they found out that they are not as "pure" as they believe, but that the younger generation do not think that way. I would like to see more reference samples, at the very least. I think everyone is interested in learning more about themselves when you get down to it. So, in time...
    Thanks for the comment!
    @Ticklebear - Thanks for your support. :-)

  6. Congratulations CeCe,

    This sounds like a very positive development.