5 January 2016

REVIEW: 23andMe DNA Testing Kit

Spit take.

Being invited to spit into a tube and post it was one of the strangest requests we’ve ever had, but it’s turned out to be one of the most eye-opening. We always thought we knew ourselves, but after having our DNA tested we’ve all found out a few interesting facts, both about where we’re from, and our health. We literally salivate over the 23andMe DNA Testing Kit.

What? Well, what you do is very simple: 23andMe send you a kit containing a small test tube which, very simply, you spit in. Actually, not very simply, as you have to get quite a bit of saliva in there, bubble free. It took about twenty minutes in all honesty, but the scientists at 23andMe need a big ol’ dollop to extract cells which contain enough DNA.

Once posted back to them (the lab is in the United States) it takes about six weeks for the technicians to do their work on your sample. Once completed, you get an email… and your eyes will be fully opened to who you really are.

Visit the 23andMe website (after creating an account when you sent off your sample) and you’ll be able to view your results. These are spilt into two categories; Health Overview and Ancestry Overview. We were most interested to look at Ancestry, so shot straight there. Inside you’ll be able to see what your DNA consists of, especially from where in the world you come from. All the data for this is laid out in various ways, but the percentage breakdown was by far the easiest to interpret. You can click on the different segments of the pie to see where in the world parts of your DNA come from.

Also available to view are your maternal and paternal lines, identifying where your mum’s family come from, and also for your dad’s. This means that the results can be interesting not only for the main subject, but also their immediate family. Plus, as well as simply informing you what particular haplogroup your parents’ genes come from, the site also provides a lot of background and historical information to help you understand the results.

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One fascinating element of the test reveals what percentage of your DNA is Neanderthal. Yes, you are most probably part Neanderthal, which makes a lot of sense considering how much we like caves. Our test subject’s results (he’s decided to remain nameless) showed that he was 3.1% Neanderthal, which is higher than the average European. Nice.

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The Health section was interesting in a very different way. 23andMe analyse your DNA to see what kind of characteristics and traits you physically possess, such as eye colour, whether your hair is straight or curly, and what the chances are that you have red hair. It was fascinating to see all this information appear on screen correctly, when all we sent into the lab was a tube full of spit and no other info about us.

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Your DNA is also used to track your body’s susceptibility to certain diseases, and this is where it all gets pretty serious. Certain results, such as those which relate to the subject’s chances of contracting the likes of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and breast and ovarian cancer, are initially hidden and locked. To get these results the subject has to click a form stating that they are fully prepared for the answers, be they good or bad. Fortunately for our lab rat everything came back either negative or low possibility, but 23andMe do included lots of advice about what concerned people should do once they see the results.

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For someone trying to trace their own family history (that goes beyond ‘grandad was from somewhere in Wales’) the 23andMe tester kit would make a pretty excellent gift. To be honest though, simply getting this for yourself to answer certain questions both about your genetic past and your current health is a great idea, and we truly believe that everyone should have something like this done. You can find out more about testing like this thanks to this excellent article by DNA Weekly.

Yes, the ancestry stuff is fun, and imagine being able to tell the guests at your next dinner party the percentage of your DNA that is Neanderthal, but the real value here is the health assessment. Knowing that you might be susceptible to, or carry the genes responsible for, certain diseases will give you a head start in fighting them. And all that will only set you back…


Visit www.23andme.com

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