On the not-so-serious side of at-home DNA testing, there is a company that offers wine recommendations based on your genes. Vinome is part of the Helix marketplace. It creates a personalized taste profile for you based on your genes and offers a curated list of wines you can buy through the service. If you buy and rate the wines, Vinome hones in on your preferences and matches you to new products.
First of all, what is DNA? The letters stand for Deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule encoding the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms. Its structure was first described by Nobel Prize winners Crick and Watson in 1953. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.
FTDNA has, by far, the most advanced tools built-in for easily analyzing cousin matches and it does have a family tree feature that has been recently improved, but most people have not taken advantage of this feature and the family trees found on FTDNA are, when present, generally underdeveloped. However, because FTDNA also provides a host of advanced featured that can provide invaluable data to dedicated researchers their cousin matching system still stands apart from the crowd, drawing in those who are interested in more deeply analyzing their results.
For the uninformed, this is the best discussion on the subject of DNA that I have ever seen. I have been trying to determine who my great great grandfather is for years. I’ve tested with Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, hired ProGenealogists with Ancestry (twice), and still can’t determine who he is. I truly don’t know where to go now. The genealogist that consults with Finding your Roots works for a company that doesn’t do individual research. Who else does the genetic genealogist research that they do?
Bill Newman, professor of translational genomic medicine in the Manchester centre for genomic medicine at the University of Manchester, and chair of the British Society of Genetic Medicine, says that such tests in this context simply don’t make sense and that, usually, telomere testing would only be used in in-depth studies of ageing and diseases associated with ageing. “There’s some really brilliant work going on, by some of the best biologists in the world,” says Newman, citing Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the 2009 Nobel prize for medicine for her work on telomeres. “But there’s no evidence whatsoever that measuring a person’s telomeres gives any indication about their health – or beauty, intelligence, or anything else that might be listed on these sites.”
Guidelines recommend that women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 variant should be screened for breast cancer earlier and more often. Risk-reducing surgery or medication may also be offered. Men with a variant should be screened for breast cancer. Screening guidelines for prostate cancer vary. This test is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional for recommended screenings. Results should be confirmed in a clinical setting before taking any medical action. It is important to talk with a healthcare professional before taking any medical action.
While 23andMe does offer DNA relative matching and some tools to compare your genes to your DNA relatives, it doesn’t have robust genealogy tools, as its focus rests more in personal discovery and exploration. To that end, 23andMe has an optional health upgrade that provides reports on DNA traits like hair color and genetic predispositions to certain illnesses and diseases. It is the only DNA test with FDA approval for testing genes linked to conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. If you’re interested in the health portion of the test, we recommend buying the Health + Ancestry test together, as this option costs less than upgrading later.
Once your genetic information is out there, it’s difficult to undo. Also, once you know something about yourself, it’s impossible to forget. Revelations such as having different parents than you expected or finding unknown half-siblings are difficult to process at any age, but it’s particularly troubling for kids. However, you can always simply opt out of family matching features.
Almost immediately after the technique of DNA profiling was developed, it was put to legal use. The case of Colin Pitchfork, the first criminal convicted using DNA fingerprinting, is well publicised, but the very first use of this technique was actually in an immigration case. Alec Jeffreys (the person who developed the technique) helped a Ghanaian boy to avoid deportation by comparing his DNA to that of his alleged British mother’s, to prove that he was her biological son. Since that case, DNA profiling has been used in thousands of cases of immigration, by either keeping families together or reuniting them by proving biological relationships.
Direct-to-consumer DNA tests are still relatively new. The first ancestral DNA test launched in 2001 by FamilyTreeDNA, but companies didn’t start genotyping autosomal DNA until 2007. Still, tests and results have come a long way since then, with much lower prices and streamlined sample collection, registration and results. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to buy a DNA ancestry test for yourself or as a gift, here are a few things to consider.
Good explanation, but I was a little distressed by the part of the analogy that says people know what work to do because "someone tells us." That statement makes people sound like robots and that we do not make decisions on our own. Maybe this is lost on me because I work for myself, but this paints the picture of a chain of people telling other people what to do and everyone following blindly. Something to think about when discussing this concept with children! Humans have free will... :)
I’ve tested with each of the big five. It’s wise in the sense that you have access to every database of matches. Some companies allow you to upload your raw DNA that was generated from other testing companies. That can save you a lot of money. So you can test with Ancestry, then upload your raw DNA to MyHeritage, FTDNA and LivingDNA. 23andMe do not allow uploads right now so you’d have to test with them separately. Ancestry also does not allow uploads, that’s why I would use them to do your initial test.
A DNA profile can also be adapted to produce artwork. Several companies will use the profiling technique discussed above, but they’ll combine florescent colours with your genetic markers to produce bands that look a bit like a barcode. These bands can be mounted on canvas, wood, metal or other materials to create a piece of art that can be displayed in your home. They can also be digitised and customised with different colours or background themes to make a range of ‘DNA portraits’. One company, Dot One, even makes scarves and rugs inspired by these patterns!
Every human carries two copies of the genetic code, one inherited from the mother and one from the father, some 6 billion letters in all. Apart from identical twins, no two individuals have the same genetic code. With the exception of the egg and sperm cells, all the cells of our bodies have 23 pairs of chromosomes, 46 in all. One chromosome of the pair is inherited from the father and one from the mother. However, in males the 23rd pair consists of a so-called Y-chromosome and an X-chromosome, whereas females have two X-chromosomes. The Y chromosome contains a gene which triggers embryonic development as a male and carries information about the male’s paternal lineage.