BETA
Close

This Groundbreaking App Gives Couples A DNA-Based Glimpse Into Their Future Children

Business

When we find out that we're pregnant, we start imagining so many things. What will our child look like? How will their little personality be? What name will suit them perfectly? We have so many questions to be answered and the root of it all involves us just wanting to have a healthy baby. Nothing else matters at all.


While there are certain tests that are routine during pregnancy, they only tell us so much. So we sit and wait for nine months (typically more) until we meet our baby.

And of course, to add to our wandering minds, during our pregnancy, we're bombarded with so many inquiries about our families health and genes on both mom and dad's side - which makes our worry only worsen. It honestly would seem like nothing short of a miracle if we were able to detect genetic-related traits, so we would know exactly what this sweet baby growing inside us would inherit.

Well, this extremely advanced technology is literally at our fingertips now through a new App called BABYGlimpse and the wealth of knowledge that you are provided with is truly groundbreaking.

Photo Courtesy of ThoughtCo

The founders include Chris Glode, Co-founder & CEO, Ryan Trunck, Co-founder & VP of Engineering, and Jennifer Lescallett, Co-founder & Commercial Development - and each and every one is equally excited about the advancements that this technology brings to couples everywhere.

“When HumanCode introduced the concept of BABYGlimpse, we were immediately intrigued. It provided a unique avenue to tap into the excitement and wonder that comes along with growing a family," said Justin Kao, co-founder and SVP of Helix. “BABYGlimpse helps couples explore the bright side of genetics, creating a fun and enlightening conversation around their future."

They also shared with me, “each of the founders had different experiences that led to the creation of HumanCode and BABYGlimpse. For me, having my second child, and getting the film from our standard first-trimester ultrasound stimulated my curiosity. I immediately began using existing consumer DNA products to see if I could get a side by side view of my genetics with my wife, and project what the baby might inherit. After getting frustrated with how hard it was to do this, I got excited about the product - solving a problem that I experienced as a parent. For Jen, it's something that she had thought about for years, as a mother of three and with two decades of experience in genomics - she saw the potential for a company and product in this space. For Ryan, as a person considering starting a family, he was fascinated by the idea that genomics could provide a glimpse into what the future of his family could hold," as a group.

Photo Courtesy of Cerhvalencia

The process has been so profoundly personal to all of the creators that we can only imagine how many people will be equally intrigued by what this simple test can do and how much this knowledge will really impact couples.

It's the first DNA-powered app for couples to discover and explore the genetic-related traits their children may inherit. The new app was developed in collaboration with Helix, a personal genomics company, that recently launched the first online marketplace for DNA-powered products. Basically, it gives parents perspective through a fun and informative preview of what their baby might inherit from them.  The test as a whole explores more than 20 different traits, including ancestry, physical appearance, and wellness-related conditions.

How does it work? Through single at-home collection kits that require a simple saliva sample from both parents. “The at-home collection kits contain instructions, and a small plastic vial to collect the saliva sample. It takes about 5 minutes to provide the sample and register the kit, and then the customer simply pops it in the mail in the prepaid return package included," the founders shared with me.

The sample is then processed in Helix's CLIA- and CAP-accredited next-generation sequencing lab. The results are securely stored and they provide HumanCode access to the portion of the genome that pertains to the information delivered in BABYGlimpse. The app then utilizes a proprietary computational method to combine the couple's DNA results and make predictions on the possible traits of their future child. The results are delivered to couples through the BABYGlimpse app for iPhone, or via a secure customer web portal.

Photo Courtesy of TheTrentOnline

“We built BABYGlimpse as an inspiring and optimistic way for two people to understand their own genetics, and what they might pass on to their offspring," said Chris Glode, CEO of HumanCode. “Today's couples have so many questions and curiosities during the process of creating a family—there's so much advice and information, but little of it is personal to them. We want to help families venture beyond  the classic black-and-white ultrasound photo and gender reveal to learn more about themselves and their genetics. BABYGlimpse adds to the excitement and anticipation of building a family. We call it 'sunshine science'."

Having just had a baby a year ago myself I was beyond curious to see if this might be something that would end up as a regular part of our prenatal care in the United States. Having so many different curiosities about that sweet little babe growing inside, it really would be something that put so many parents mind's at ease - especially when it comes to all those wellness related traits. “Given that it's not a medical test, in it's current state, probably not. We are open to the idea that it could eventually be included as a fun and informative companion experience to some of the medically diagnostic tests, but we don't want customers, physicians, or genetic counselors to be perceiving BABYGlimpse as something that is intended to be a medical test. It's really designed to be a fun, sharable, informative and educational experience. We don't test for any genetic disorders and don't currently have plans to," the team informed me.

If you're looking to get your hands on the BABYGlimpse, it is available for $349.98 on Helix.com, and includes Exome + DNA sequencing for two people and unlimited access to the application on the secure HumanCode website or iPhone app.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.