by Chené Murphy

Improve Your Health with DNA & Epigenetic Testing

Improve Your Health with DNA & Epigenetic Testing

My Toolbox Genomicsdelivers specific-to-you insights and targeted suggestions putting you in control of your health.  We spoke to Dr. Erika Gray, Chief Medical Officer & Co-founder of My Toolbox Genomics who shares insights on what you can discover through genetic testing, epigenetics and actions to improve your health and wellbeing.

Could you share a bit of your background with us and how you came to co-found My Toolbox Genomics?

ToolBox Genomics began serendipitously. After my parents did their 23andMe test, they had many questions as they sifted through all the information they received. Additionally, we found out my father is an APOE carrier, one of the genes that puts you at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.  Immediately, how someone receives and understands their genetic information became very personal for me. My father wanted to know what he could do to minimize the effects of the APOE gene.  As a result, I set about to answer one critical question: – How do I take this valuable information and translate it into something that is actionable.  My goal was to translate the vast amount of information you receive from DNA and turn it into something that is actionable, relevant, easy to understand and digestible: enter ToolBox Genomics.

After a few years, we had many consumers asking for a version they could order without a doctor/practitioner. Subsequently, we figured out the best way to provide compelling and actionable test results that did not require immediate practitioner guidance. That became Toolbox Genomics’ sister company My Toolbox.

My ToolBox is designed to help consumers do a broad investigation of their DNA and store all their information on an app.  Additionally, we are very excited that we also offer epigenetic testing. Epigenetic testing actually measures something called cpg islands that will tell you how methylated or unmethylated a gene(s) is/are. Currently, we are looking at biological age, hearing age, eye age, memory age and inflammation and much more.  We have had a lot of practitioners interested in the epigenetics part and then the consumers are interested in both.

What sets My Toolbox Genomics apart from other testing services? What makes your service unique?

There are 3 main things: first is our app which includes both epigenetics and DNA; second are the personalized recommendations and suggestions for improvement; the third is our new virus risk score.

We just launched our virus risk score which takes into account about 60 different genes that may predispose you to being more susceptible to viruses, especially upper respiratory virus infections. There are three components to the score, genetics, air quality where you live – we know that pollution does play a role in oxidative stress and the third is lifestyle.  Your lifestyle is determined through a questionnaire on the app. The beauty of the score is you can see where you need to focus and then go back and re-take the lifestyle questionnaire to see how you have improved your score. Bottom line, even if you get a bad genetic score you can work to improve it through your lifestyle component.

Our website is geared to provide the best customer service possible.  Often you find websites where you cannot directly access a human, have a conversation and get answers. What we do is offer a phone number, a chat, email and you can attend live stream sessions where you can ask your questions, get some insight and have access to professionals.  We go above and beyond the call of duty of staying with people even after they have bought the test and app.

What kind of information can be discovered through your DNA Test, your Epigenetics Test and how could this change the way that people live?

You will receive information around many different features that includes muscle power, muscle stamina, recovery rate, injury risk, vitamins deficiencies, heart health, eye health, immunity, mental health.  Mental health can be incredibly helpful especially now, determining whether you are more of a workaholic, how caffeine figures in with your focus, are you more of a night owl or lark or are you more of a warrior or a worrier.  We also find many people are interested in the skin health and sleep categories as well.

I find DNA results highlight areas you already suspected need of further support or investigation or offer an explanation behind these nagging questions in the back of your mind, but you did not know the why behind it.  Having that additional information is very satisfying for people and from there, through our recommendations, you can set your goals, whether it be overall wellbeing, health, weight loss, and the app will adjust some of the recommendations for you based on your results.

The results will also make recommendations around nutrition. For example should you consider cutting out gluten? Do you need to be more cognisant of when you are drinking coffee because you are a slow caffeine metabolizer? Do you need additional vitamin D3?

Then you can go further with exercise. What type of muscle fiber do you have and what is the ideal type of exercise for you? Are you more prone to injury risk because you are more prone to hyperflexion or over-exertion and need to take more recovery time.

We find many people use their DNA results to fine tune different work-out regimens, diet plans and nutrition plans.

Your results may also prompt a further discussion with a practitioner. For example if there are markers that show you are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes or vitamin D3 deficiency, you may want to talk to your practitioner and consider additional lab testing to further understand your risks.

Are there specific personalized actions that people can take following their results to improve their health and wellbeing?

Personalized actions are provided based on your results.  For example, you may take the test to understand your predisposition to various nutrient deficiencies.  You may have noticed you constantly struggle with low vitamin D3 results, but now you have an explanation with your results. In your results, you will receive a recommendation to start with a relatively lower dose of vitamin d3.  The recommendation would be a lower starting dose because we want everyone to double check with their practitioner and make sure they get some follow up lab testing as well, that they do not just automatically jump to 10 000 IU of vitamin D3.  There is guidance in recommendations so you are not stranded and can start taking action immediately when you get your results.

Which trends and technologies do you expect to see more of in the coming years?

We will certainly see the consumer playing more of a role in their own health.  Technology is improving every year, the cost of different tests is constantly dropping and becoming more accessible to the consumer. I think we will see more companies offering platform integration where you can upload your blood work, DNA, epigenetic, stool test results and the platform will analyze the data so you can see your health trajectory and improvements.

I believe consumers are going to demand more and more granular looks at their health and will push providers to adapt to these new changes much faster than many of us in the healthcare field might realize or appreciate.  Additionally, accessibility will play a big role in changing the healthcare landscape. We are already seeing different tests that once were only available from a practitioner are easily available directly to consumers.  As a result, consumers will become even more vested and proactive in their health.

In closing, your DNA really is the blueprint of who you are. When you look at a blueprint for a house, you don’t necessarily know what that house is going to look like but at least you have an idea of where the building is going to be placed and structure. However, how you choose to decorate or paint your house is not in those blueprints.  It really is the same for your DNA, with My Toolbox Genomics you get that information – but how you choose to act on it and design your health trajectory is very personal, but we want to place our “house” in the best possible place for the property!

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About Author
Chené Murphy
Chené Murphy

Chené Murphy is a dynamic content creator with a strong interest in health and wellness. Residing in the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, South Africa, Chené is passionate about travelling and connecting with others from around the world.

Chené Murphy is a dynamic content creator with a strong interest in health and wellness. Residing in the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, South Africa, Chené is passionate about travelling and connecting with others from around the world.