Dna Testing How It Works – When you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how it works.
It wasn’t that long ago that the genetic tests that are widely available today were the realm of dystopian science fiction. This is a great gift to buy your genealogy-minded aunt for her birthday.
Dna Testing How It Works
Companies such as 23andMe (opens in a new tab), Ancestry.com (opens in a new tab), and National Geographic (opens in a new tab) sell at-home DNA test kits that can test your genetic information for a set offers to unlock the secrets. worth. , Dinner at a nice restaurant and about half a teaspoon of saliva.
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And while there was a time when these tests were primarily marketed as medical services — ways to screen for disease and better understand your body — that aspect of their brand has partially waned, Thanks to the action by US regulators. Today, most major genetic testing companies position themselves primarily as “ancestry” services, promising to connect long-lost relatives and tell users where in the world their ancestors came from. .
“The Ancestry service is a set of features that give you a comprehensive view of your history from the very early past to the very recent past, with Neanderthals 60,000 years ago,” said Robin Smith, who leads the Ancestry Program at 23andMe.
Customers send saliva samples to these companies. Then, usually after two months, they log into their accounts to get personalized websites with information such as the percentage of their South Asian or Neanderthal ancestry or details of their maternal and paternal lineages. [Best DNA Testing Kits of 2018]
Once the DNA in the saliva sample is digitized, it looks like a long string of the letters C, G, T, and A. These are the marks given to the four nitrogenous bases of DNA, the letters in which genes are written.
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This sequence of letters will be incomprehensible to you and incomprehensible even to the biologists and engineers who study them. For example, there is no sequence of letters that means “Swiss” or “Nigerian”. But algorithms can extract meaning from a string of letters, Smith said.
These companies keep the details of their algorithms a secret. But it’s not as if their computers speak a secret language. Instead, they’re really good at recognizing patterns, according to geneticist Mark Stonking, team leader at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
He used a version of these techniques in his pioneering work to trace the common ancestor of all living humans, a woman named “Mitochondrial Eve” who lived about 200,000 years ago. And researchers still use these methods to trace the movement and mixing of human populations from the deep past to recent history.
If a genetic anthropologist has one DNA sample and a very large library of other samples to compare, that anthropologist can quickly figure out which groups of DNA in the library are most closely related, Stoneking says. Are.
Ancestry Dna Information
Researchers can trace the paternal line by looking at the Y chromosome that fathers pass on to their male children. Similarly, maternal lineage can be found in the mitochondrial DNA that mothers pass on to all their children. But the richest and most detailed information about a family tree comes from comparing everything else—the 22 non-sex chromosomes—from vast libraries.
“The algorithm works by taking the whole genome and breaking it down,” Smith said. “It takes small fragments and compares them to a set of reference data for each [part of the DNA] it came from”.
So if your 23andMe test says you’re 29 percent British, it’s because 29 percent of your DNA is likely to belong to a set of fragments that the 23andMe reference library has dubbed “British.”
According to Stoneking, the names of these ancestry groups come from self-report (many people can describe their immediate ancestry fairly well) and independent study. So if the algorithm finds that 8,000 people belong to a cohesive ancestral group, and the researchers know that all of those people originated in Thailand, they might call that group “Thais”.
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The problem, as Stoneking described and Smith acknowledged, is that these methods are only as good as the libraries against which researchers must compare DNA samples.
Details about 23andMe’s libraries — like all of its major competitors — aren’t publicly available, but Smith said the company is more likely to target European populations (among their most-used groups) than Native American populations. can provide more detailed information. (at least of the researched groups). This is why a genealogical site may separate Irish from Anglo-Saxon or Ashkenazi Jews from Polish, but lump Inuit and Navajo into the same category.
Stoneking said, so while the basic tools are valid, the quality of the data from a comprehensive source is limited.
However, the more personal information these companies provide, such as finding long-lost relatives, the more reliable they are, Stoneking said. Society does not need a large library to know whether DNA samples come from family members; They only require algorithms that have been refined over decades.
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Rafi joined Live Science in 2017. He holds a BA in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His previous science reporting on Ulta, Business Insider and Popular Science, and his previous photojournalism can be found on the Flash90 news channel in southern New Jersey and The Courier Post. Should I be giving a DNA kit this holiday season? Genetic counselor Kira Dineen talks about what to consider when buying a DNA kit as a gift.
Kira is a Board Certified Consultant Geneticist in private practice in the United States, specializing in high-risk obstetrics. She is also the Digital Ambassador of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and the creator/host of the award-winning podcast and radio show DNA Today: Genetics.
One of the most popular seasonal gifts is a homemade DNA kit from companies like Ancestry and 23andMe. The DNA kit can be used to look up a variety of information, including health and ancestry information.
Sano Genetics does not currently offer genealogy testing, but does provide free DNA kits for specific studies. Sano also allows people who have previously been tested to upload their data and access free personalized genetic reports to participate in groundbreaking genetic research.
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How does direct consumer genetic testing work? Let’s look at the basics of genetics. Our genome, the entire human genetic code, consists of 3 billion letters. The code is written in a genetic alphabet consisting only of As, Ts, Cs and Gs (the chemicals adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine). There would be about 3 million spelling differences (out of 3 billion letters) in the genomes of two strangers. These genetic variants are known as “single nucleotide polymorphisms,” or SNPs, where people have a single letter difference at the same location in their genome (read more in my previous blog post about the uniqueness of our DNA). For DNA kits, SNPs are used to collect information.
In phylogenetic analysis, DNA variations extracted from saliva samples are compared to reference databases (these can be considered “master” databases). For example, my ancestry results show that I am 39% Irish, which means that the probabilities analyzed match the reference data set of 39% people of Irish descent.
Sano Genetics does not currently offer paternity verification as it has chosen to focus on health research and personalized medicine.
For health, genetic variants can also be analyzed and combined (a concept known as a polygenic risk score) to obtain estimates of characteristics such as weight. For example, your polygenic risk score may indicate that you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Specific genetic variants, a difference in the spelling of a gene, are also being studied to predict health, such as how well you metabolize caffeine and your sleep patterns.
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If you’re looking for a DNA kit to answer a medical question, your best bet is to consult a health care provider trained in genetics, such as a genetic counselor. In the US, you can visit Findageneticcounselor.com. Home DNA testing provides selected information. The most important question to ask is: What are the limits of the test? For example, 23andMe looks at three specific variants (which significantly increase the risk of breast cancer) in the BRCA gene. So if someone has a variant that is not among the high-risk variants, they may be under the mistaken impression that the entire BRCA gene has been tested and no variant has been identified. Ann Greb, Medical Education Team Leader at 23andMe, shares her thoughts with me in this podcast episode.
When using companies like 23andMe and Ancestry, which allow you to compare your results with those of your relatives, unexpected results can be found, such as when the parents are not their biological parents. New biological relatives may also be found, such as
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