Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. This test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition.
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.
It’s easy to do these tests; it’s usually just a case of collecting your own samples at home, filling in short, basic questionnaires, posting the packages, and then logging on to interactive websites for confidential results (all the kits I tested used outside laboratories). With an array of price ranges and options, from one-off DNA-blitzes to targeting specific health areas, to fitness/wellness tracking, it’s no surprise that these kits are proving to be very big business and the field is primed to get even bigger, with a global market estimated to be worth around £7.7bn by 2022.
Although FamilyTreeDNA is the only DNA testing company openly working with law enforcement, other DNA companies don’t necessarily keep your DNA information private. Many direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies sell your data to third parties. For example, 23andMe shares customer data with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which uses the information to develop medical treatments. In this case, you can opt out of having your DNA information used for research, and the data is shared only in aggregate.
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.
Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is currently priced at $79, MyHeritage DNA has had their price set at $79 since they launched their test in November 2016 (although the full cost was technically $99 for some time). AncestryDNA’s cost is $99 and 23andMe who, in the past, charged $199 for genealogy and health information, now offers a genealogy only test for $99.
G6PD deficiency is a common genetic condition caused by defects in an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, or G6PD. The G6PD enzyme helps protect red blood cells from damage. In people with G6PD deficiency, red blood cells are destroyed upon exposure to certain environmental triggers, which can lead to episodes of anemia. This test includes the most common variant linked to G6PD deficiency in people of African descent.
At-home paternity tests have been around much longer than other direct-to-consumer DNA tests. Most of them require you to collect cheek swab samples from a prospective father and child, which you then send off to a lab to determine paternity. For non-legal use, these tests can cost as little as $15, but tests that provide verified results that are admissible in court cost a few hundred dollars.
MyHeritage has good coverage in most European countries, and provides support in 42 languages. It has the potential to reach markets that are poorly covered by other DNA testing companies. MyHeritage currently has 85 million registered users so there is good potential for growth. Many MyHeritage customers have uploaded family trees, thus increasing the chance of finding a connection. MyHeritage is a late entrant to the autosomal market, and it remains to be seen how well the test will be received, and what features will be offered to differentiate them from the competition. The tree-building and matching facilities are restricted with the free MyHeritage service. Subscription options are available to access additional features such as the facility to include more than 250 people in your tree, the ability to search trees, smart matches and instant discoveries.
Therefore, when the markers in two samples are analysed, the number of times that they’re repeated can be compared and the statistical likelihood that they came from the same person or from two closely related individuals can be calculated. This is why DNA profiling can be used to establish biological relationships, as well as to connect DNA evidence with a criminal suspect.
Autosomal DNA Tests: These type of tests have become extremely popular over the last couple of years as prices have dropped and the amount and accuracy of the results has increased. Autosomal testing looks at information across the genome to provide clues to our personal ancestral history on a much broader scale than either mtDNA or Y-DNA testing can. While this type of genetic testing is an ever evolving science, you can expect to get a general breakdown of your ancestors’ geographical origins (your admixture) as well as connections with people who share your ancestry. This can be a unique and exciting way to tear down those brick walls and uncover branches of your family tree you never knew you had. For some, the results can be surprising and enlightening–for others, there can be a simple verification of already known information and even some disappointment in discovering nothing new.