San Diegans get rare access to genetic makeup

Posted at 5:15 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 20:15:51-04

A group of San Diegans just solved their own health mysteries.

Penny Navarro went to last year's Chargers Blood Drive, but she now has knowledge she thinks could help her live a little bit longer.

"I'm an open book," she said.

Navarro is 60 years old, a grandmother and a breast cancer survivor.

"And I have very good veins" she said.

Navarro donates blood several times a year, calling it a personal thing. Up to now, she's received nothing in return.

At last year's Chargers Blood Drive, she and about 70 other San Diegans gave a little extra blood to Illumina, a biotech firm in University City.

The company analyzed their genetics as part of a study to get the makeup of San Diegans. These tests can cost thousands of dollars and are geared toward people in the biotech industry. Illumina says it wants to change that, and it is working to lower the price and spread awareness.

"You actually get a picture like you see on the television medical shows or something of your chromosomes," she said.

But some of the chapters gave her pause.

"I found out I had four recessive genes they actually could recognize," Navarro said.

They led to physical conditions she couldn't pronounce, but they're no longer a worry.

"I felt a great sense of relief because these were things that would have shown up in my children or me long before now," she said.

Navarro also found out she doesn't carry the breast cancer gene. She's taking the results to her doctor, hoping that the information empowers here to make better decisions about her health.

"I had friends who were kind of like, 'Oh, big brother,' but I'm one of those people who thinks, 'Gee, why not?' more than 'what if?'" said Navarro.