I took a $30 test that told me if I had ‘superhero’ genes — and it was by far the most fun test I’ve taken

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

I’m no stranger to consumer genetics tests.

I’ve done ones that told me where my ancestors came from, ones that tried to advise me how to eat and exercise, and of course, 23andMe’s test.

But until now, I hadn’t come across one that would tell me if I had “superpowers.”

So, when I heard about Orig3n, a biotech company that offers such a test, I had to test it out. And, at just $29, the test was by far the cheapest one I’ve tried out so far.

Here’s what I learned.


This is the “LifeProfile Superhero” test kit, complete with comic-book-looking DNA on the front. Orig3n, the biotech company that makes the test, got the idea after visiting a lot of comic conventions.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Orig3n’s main gig is working with induced pluripotent stem cells (stem cells that are found in the blood that are made to behave like embryonic stem cells). Orig3n stores these cells in a biorepository, which can then be used by the consumers who store them in there, or by researchers who are trying to learn more about certain diseases. Orig3n goes all across the country collecting for this biorepository, stopping at conventions, sporting events, and concert festivals to collect samples.

And as the company’s staff was analyzing the genetics of those samples, they realized they could look into performing consumer genetics tests.

Orig3n’s CEO Robin Smith told me the reason they’re able to keep the costs so low is they run the tests on technology they developed themselves.

And they’re doing a lot of these tests: At a conference over the weekend, they were able to churn out 450 genetics reports in just a matter of days. Typically, spit-test results don’t come back for a few weeks.

“What we’re doing is not just a back-office science project. We’re the only company out there interfacing our biotech lab with a direct to consumer informational business,” Smith said.


Inside the box, I found a swab and instructions (along with an inspirational quote from Abraham Lincoln).

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

For this test, I had to swab the inside of each of my cheeks.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Once that was done, I packed it back up in the prepaid envelope provided.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

I also gave Orig3n some of my information about where they could find me once my results came in.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Soon after, I got my results back in my inbox. At first, I was only able to look at my results in PDF format.

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Lydia Ramsey/Business Insider

Scrolling past this title page, I was greeted with a letter that explained what I’d be seeing, and also gave me the advice: “Before embarking on a life of heroic activity please consult your physician.”

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Orig3n

The PDF explained that there were six gene variants that the test looked for: two each related to strength, intelligence, and speed. In the table of contents, the report also broke down how Orig3n found this information.

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Lydia Ramsey/Business Insider

After passing by a table of contents, I was hit with another page of text explaining how I should be reading the test, complete with caveats and disclaimers such as not using this test for medical purposes.

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Lydia Ramsey/Business Insider

The accompanying app had a different, updated feel to it. I was able to click on the report I’d ordered, which was in color, while the other tests Orig3n offered were grayed out.

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Orig3n screenshot

First up were reports meant to show me if I had any “super” strength abilities. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an super results.

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Orig3n screenshot

I did learn, however, that based on my vitamin D receptor gene, I’m predisposed to have a lower incidence of injury.

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Orig3n screenshot

The page also pointed me directly to references so if I felt so inclined, I could go in and really dig through the studies that led to this conclusion.

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Orig3n screenshot

This particular test was looking at the vitamin D receptor gene, called VDR. Looking at the citations, I found a few studies, one of which strictly looked at 470 healthy premenopausal women, and another that looked at both men and women that noted an association between VDR gene variants and quadricept muscle strength.

Other references indicated that there’s still much we don’t know about how vitamin D affects our muscles; more research is needed to figure out if it’s giving us any benefit.


When I got to the intelligence portion, I spotted my first “super” gene.

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Orig3n screenshot

I was among 15% of the population who are more likely to have “attained multiple years of successful education and higher scores in achievement tests than those with CC or AC genotype.” But just because I had this one gene didn’t mean I was guaranteed to have super-smarts.

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Orig3n screenshot

“For things like intelligence there’s easily 100 different genes involved. So the notion that you’re going to test for a few of them and that’s going to be predictive, that’s not reflecting the complexity of genetics and of the mind and brain,” Columbia University professor of bioethics and psychology Robert Klitzman told Business Insider in May.

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Source: Business Insider


The report also included one of the most well-studied super-genes, ACTN3. This is a gene I’ve had looked at twice before, and Orig3n’s results seemed to be consistent: I’m not a sprinter.

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Orig3n screenshot

In fact, Orig3n’s test told me, I was in the category that needed to “adapt” — so I really was not a sprinter.

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Orig3n screenshot

The takeaway? At just $30, it was easily the cheapest and most fun test I’ve taken yet.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Getting my results felt more like taking an experiment than getting a serious piece of news. This was the first time I’d used my mobile phone to get my results, and it was by far the smoothest experience I’d had for pulling up a report.

This is a good, simple test for someone interested in what’s hidden in our DNA who doesn’t necessarily want an ancestry report or a health report. But it’s important to keep in mind that the genetics of complex traits like intelligence, strength, and speed are still not entirely understood, and environment – not just genes – plays a key role in shaping these traits. Looking at a few key variants can offer an interesting window into where you might have a leg up (or not). And that’s fun, even if it’s by no means a reflection of your destiny.

Now, all that’s left to do is figure out the name for my super alter-ego.