dna-strand

DNA, sometimes called the blueprint for life, is a long, double-stranded molecule shaped like a twisted rope ladder. The genetic code is carried in the steps on the ladder.

A California company that can provide an assessment of a person's genetic makeup has expanded into Canada.

23andMe Inc., linked to Google by money and marriage, said that it can "unlock the secrets of your own DNA" for $999 US. The name is a reference to the 23 paired chromosomes in human DNA.

It aims to help people understand what the spate of discoveries linking certain genes to medical conditions means for them.

Using the company service, a person can find out what their own chances are of developing scores of common conditions, and also how their DNA may influence their athletic ability, intelligence and dietary preferences, co-founder Linda Avey wrote on the company blog.

The company website also said the service enables buyers to compare their profiles with family or friends who buy in, discover where and how their ancestors lived, and participate in genetics research.

Co-founder Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, said "we believe in empowering individuals by helping them understand their genetic make-up." Google invested $3.9 million US in the company, the New York Times reported.

23andMe opened its web-based service to Canadians on Tuesday, the same day an international consortium launched a 1,000-person study to fill in gaps in genetics knowledge.

The 23andMe service sends buyers a saliva kit for a sample. The user mails the sample to a lab, which produces a genetic profile. The data is posted on 23andMe's website, where there are tools that allow a customer to see what the research means, the company said.

As well as Google, Genentech and New Enterprise Associates invested in the business.