Genome Mapping/DNA tests

Oct 30, 2013


Discussion by: QuestioningKat

As I child, I was envious of other kids mentioning their diverse heritage/nationalities. Kids would proudly list off that they were German, Italian, English, Irish and Cherokee or something exotic along those lines. As a child who dreamed of traveling, my second generation German/Slovak American nationality seemed boring and lacking in diversity. I've since learned that I have a bit of French and often suspect (hope) that there is something like Mongolian or Chinese in the mix. It would be nice to know.

My father is turning 93 and has had very few health issues throughout his life. I'm not sure how much longer he has to live; my guess is not much.  I've often suspected that he could have been someone who lives beyond 100 if he took better care of himself – didn't drink, smoke when younger, and avoided the junk food. Yep, people are amazed someone could be so abusive to their body and be so lucky. We all know that it is genetics. His ancestors were living well into their 80s a couple hundred years ago. I hope I have his luck, but I seem to have have several health issues (like my deceased mother) at an even younger age.

I recall Richard had his genome mapped some time ago and think this is something I would like to do. (under the table without the insurance companies sticking their nose into it) I've noticed several online DNA/ancestry tests usually around $99 and a bit more. Sounds intriguing and fishy at the same time. How reliable are mass consumer DNA tests? What is the current state of science for testing the general population. What are limitations of DNA/genome mapping? I would assume that they could only partially test for certain diseases or certain ancestries, correct? Perhaps one test looks for a certain ancestry while another test is designed for a completely different group (?) I would assume they might be a bit "sloppy" and have false positives or false negatives, correct or not? Is accurate, affordable DNA/genome mapping, etc. truly available at this point in time? How much of a possibility is there that this type of testing could fall into the pseudoscience/scam category?

Also, what are your views on this type of testing?  Are these $99 testing packages being ethical? Are they intentionally appealing to certain groups such as those with African ancestry in order to make a buck without fully providing a through "historical" test? It is certainly appealing to me to have my DNA and my father's DNA tested – then subtracted to get a separate "picture" of my mother's DNA and heritage. Time of course is ticking.

Do you personally want to be tested to know your medical susceptibility to certain diseases? (Consider the measures that Angelina Jolie took to prevent breast cancer.) Would it be worth it to you?

Let's discuss

35 comments on “Genome Mapping/DNA tests

  • I understand a full genome cost about $5000. Each of the tests you can do on the internet does a small sampling. Apparently it is enough to trace your ancestry back. There are dozen of partial tests — for determining paternity/relatedness, looking for predisposition to various diseases.



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  • I suspect people like Richard Dawkins and Craig Ventnor who have published their genomes have revealed quite a bit more than they imagined.

    Over time, more and more information will be pulled from DNA. Also more and more information about their relatives.

    On the other hand they may have created Duncan Idaho-style immortality for themselves.



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  • As a child who dreamed of traveling, my second generation German/Slovak American nationality seemed boring and lacking in diversity.

    So the people who gave us Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Wagner, Freud, Einstein, and Marx,… that was boring to you? I was always proud of the German side of my heritage. Although, honestly I think the whole thing about taking pride in your ancestors is rather silly. Why should I be proud if my ancestors did something? I didn’t do it. And if you go back far enough we all have common ancestors anyway.



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  • In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

    And if you go back far enough we all have common ancestors anyway

    Thanks for this reminder, Red Dog. What’s odd is that readers of this site need to be reminded of it. Forget having “German” or “Romanian” or whatever ancestry (all these are political/social distinctions, not genetic ones); you are cousins of every human alive; slightly more distant cousins of every plant and animal that lives or has lived — this is necessarily so if Evolution is right, which it is. Why search for your “American-Indian” roots or whatever (which is to draw an arbitrary line in your ancestry) when you are related to all life forms? Yet another manifestation of the discontinuous mind.



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  • If life arose only once, then not only is all life related, there is only one life.

    Consider an amoeba. There is a continuous line of life going right back. There are splittings. But life does not stop or start or die at any time.

    Similarly trace back the unbroken line of maternal cells in your body.. The egg cell that started you off is millions of years old (if you don’t count splittings).

    This is the sort of thing, ordinary though it is, deserves a little religious awe.



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  • 8
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #7 by Roedy:

    If life arose only once, then not only is all life related, there is only one life.

    Consider an amoeba. There is a continuous line of life going right back. There are splittings. But life does not stop or start or die at any time.

    Similarly trace back the unbroken line of maternal cells in your body.. The egg cell that started you off is millions of years old (if you don’t count splittings).

    This is the sort of thing, ordinary though it is, deserves a little religious awe.

    To think there’s been an unbroken chain of life for at least 3.5 billion years, is most certainly awesome, in it’s literal sense.

    I don’t think it’s silly or pointless to want to know where you came from in the recent past though. These labels may be artificial and arbitrary, but they have meaning within the context of human history.

    All of taxonomy is arbitrary but we don’t ignore it under the philosophy that ‘all life is pretty much the same thing so who cares?’ because it has it’s purposes, different species function differently and play different roles in their ecosystems.

    Likewise we all form our identity from a myriad of different sources, and geographical and cultural factors play a big role in that for a lot of people. On one hand we may want to break down barriers and reduce the number of divisive issues out there, but on the other hand, who wants to be number 7,846,289,278 in a uniform race of identical beings? These things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive either, we can have our identity without resenting others.



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  • 9
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

    As a child who dreamed of traveling, my second generation German/Slovak American nationality seemed boring and lacking in diversity.

    So the people who gave us Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Wagner, Freud, Einstein, and Marx,… that was boring to you? I was always proud of the German side of my herit…

    Oh, I do think this is interesting, but I’m personally fond of the mutt variety. The more cultures the merrier. That’s why I said “lacking in diversity.” I would do a happy dance if I found out that I have Chinese, Romany, African, or something else in the mix. I would be concerned that I’d pay for a test and not find out anything new especially if the tests are limited.

    yes RDfan, I am aware that nationalities are political which is why I am interested in finding out if I have something like Chinese in the mix. It is true; if we go back far enough we find out that we are all related. I’m more interested in the last say 500 to 1000 years by tracing back my family. Where did they really come from? Perhaps, my people/ancestors actually came from a place entirely different than was is known. Just hoping.

    I don’t think it’s silly or pointless to want to know where you came from in the recent past though. These labels may be artificial and arbitrary, but they have meaning within the context of human history.

    Absolutely. It’s making better sense of your personal history. I recall a series on PBS that traced the ancestry of certain well-know people. I was jealous of Eva Longoria finding out that she had African genetics and that she is a distant cousin to YoYo Ma. I also recall the disappointed expression of Meryl Streep finding out nothing new or surprising about her family roots.

    Regarding medical testing, I would want to know. It would give me an idea of how much time ( and quality) I really have.

    On one hand we may want to break down barriers and reduce the number of divisive issues out there, but on the other hand, who wants to be number 7,846,289,278 in a uniform race of identical beings?

    I get this. Feeling one with all is nice to a certain point. Feeling close to a selected recent few is a bit deeper and more personal. No one wants to think they are cattle.



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  • 10
    bluebird says:

    fond of the mutt variety

    I am loathe to hear that phrase from folk. Enough dancing around the sombrero, just kick it already.

    just hoping

    A childhood treasure (if one is lucky) is to have a family that embraces their (relatively recent) rich roots, no matter what they are. Stop chasing the moon and be content.



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  • The “Oh No Ross and Carrie” podcast did a show on this. They try a lot of different things “so you don’t have to.” They are very entertaining, rather thorough and interesting. They both did the 23 and me testing and on the podcast they explained the whole procedure, how they received the results and what results they got back.



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  • As an aside, I had my mixed-breed dog genetically tested and there was (presumably) a small percentage of collie ancestry involved. This collie result subsequently led me to do a further test for the MDR1 mutation (collies and other herding dogs can harbor it). Fortunately my dog did not have the mutation.

    Do you personally want to be tested to know your medical susceptibility to certain diseases?

    As for me, I will eventually get mapped. My current physician, understandably, isn’t pushing this. There simply isn’t any reason to expect her to know what to do with the data. This technology is in its infancy. I don’t think you can even say “medical susceptibility” in any clinically meaningful way yet. To modify a common phrase from string-theorist supporters: this could be 22nd century medicine that was just accidentally found in the 20th century.

    …or something exotic along those lines.

    Well, you are atomically related to stars though probably not Canis Major. :-j

    Mike



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  • 13
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #10 by bluebird:

    fond of the mutt variety

    I am loathe to hear that phrase from folk. Enough dancing around the sombrero, just kick it already.

    People will disappoint.

    just hoping

    A childhood treasure (if one is lucky) is to have a family that embraces their (relatively recent) rich roots, no matter what they are. Stop chasing the moon…

    Those who are curious will be curious.



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  • 14
    crookedshoes says:

    Hey,
    I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, 16 great greats, 32….etc….etc… If you go back with this pattern and count a “generation” as 20 years, then a mere 500 years ago, I had 16,000,000 great great great great etc grandparents. My ancestors are Irish folks. So if you go back 500 years, the ENTIRE population of Ireland is my ancestor. Is there a fallacy here?

    I would be scanned, but with a grain of salt. Just like full body scans are full of false positives and anomalies that “need follow up” and turn out to be nothing, the rather “broad brush” that the current technology provides would be similar to the example I just provided.



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  • 15
    Mr Greene says:

    In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

    Although, honestly I think the whole thing about taking pride in your ancestors is rather silly. Why should I be proud if my ancestors did something? I didn’t do it. And if you go back far enough we all have common ancestors anyway.

    I think if you get back to about the 13th Century everyone has common descent as the number of ancestors at that level exceeds the number of people on the planet. Thus we are all descended from Ghengis Khan, Arthur Pendragon, Sweyn Forkbeard and hordes of unwashed peasants…
    The question is which do you count as role models?



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  • 16
    diparaditya says:

    The answer for this would be yes because I couldn’t any other possible answer other than that. Even if I had enough money and obviously if Indonesia’s Government had these kinds of facilities to made this test possible available, I would like to do it without any hesitation.

    Why? The reason is simply curiosity. I just want to know more the history of my own genomes. And , I hope to see the good news out of it.



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  • 17
    canadian_right says:

    The $99 dollar tests can only give a hint as to your genetic history and roots. The claims these tests make are quite exaggerated. The only ethically questionable part of their marketing is the exaggerated claims.

    I personally don’t understand why anyone would care too much about their genetic heritage. People have moved around so much over the ages that our genes are pretty well mixed. I enjoyed knowing my parents, grand-parents, and great grandparents, like to hear their stories, how they lived, how life has changed over the years (it is much better now), but I have zero interest in any DNA test as you would have to spend about $10,000 per test to get any meaningful information, and even if you did this – so what? It doesn’t change who you are, it doesn’t give you any useful insights into yourself.

    Want to know yourself, or improve your self? Just be honest with yourself when thinking about your character, virtue, faults, failings, accomplishments, and relationships. A dna test won’t help this journey.



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  • 19
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #17 by canadian_right:

    Want to know yourself, or improve your self? Just be honest with yourself when thinking about your character, virtue, faults, failings, accomplishments, and relationships. A dna test won’t help this journey.

    I get this. Realize that you are conflating my personal journey…character, accomplishments and relationships with knowledge of my biological roots. I find it fascinating that we have evolved from apes. I find it extremely interesting that we as a human culture have moved around and produced offspring within various races and groups of people. I know that my father’s side of the family was very mobile and I’m curious to know where my biological roots would lead if I were to follow it back. I would even be overjoyed if I was able to trace my family history back to the 13th century (unlikely), but maybe I could at least obtain knowledge of unknown ancestors or areas that they lived. Have you ever studied your face or faces of people and recognized their heritage? It’s fascinating.



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  • 20
    krzysztof1 says:

    Well, since I just paid to have my and my wife’s DNA analyzed, I have to say that I am looking forward to the results. We used 23 and Me. I think that your suspicions are premature. Lee Silver has had his done, back when it cost more (I think he used 23 and me as well, I’m not completely sure of that though), and he’s pretty savvy, so I am fairly confident we will get good results. Still waiting on them so have nothing more to report.



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  • 21
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #20 by krzysztof1:

    Well, since I just paid to have my and my wife’s DNA analyzed, I have to say that I am looking forward to the results. We used 23 and Me. I think that your suspicions are premature. Lee Silver has had his done, back when it cost more (I think he used 23 and me as well, I’m not completely sure of tha…

    Please let me know what you find out!!



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  • 22
    nick keighley says:

    In reply to #3 by Roedy:

    I suspect people like Richard Dawkins and Craig Ventnor who have published their genomes have revealed quite a bit more than they imagined.

    soon a full dna sequence will cost pennies and everyone’s sequence will be potentially known. Live with it.

    Over time, more and more information will be pulled from DNA. Also more and more information about their relatives.

    On the other hand they may have created Duncan Idaho-style immortality for themselves.

    🙂

    I think a large part of what makes a ventnor or a dawkins isn’t coded in their dna



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  • 23
    nick keighley says:

    In reply to #6 by RDfan:

    In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

    Thanks for this reminder, Red Dog. What’s odd is that readers of this site need to be reminded of it. Forget having “German” or “Romanian” or whatever ancestry (all these are political/social distinctions, not genetic ones); you are cousins of every human alive; slightly more distant cousins of every plant and animal that lives or has lived — this is necessarily so if Evolution is right, which it is. Why search for your “American-Indian” roots or whatever (which is to draw an arbitrary line in your ancestry) when you are related to all life forms? Yet another manifestation of the discontinuous mind.

    I’m rather closer related to the cherokee than I am to say an oak tree.



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  • 25
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #24 by bluebird:

    Today’s DNA test – tomorrow’s water cooler fodder.

    No no, today it is the copier fodder. Water coolers are old school. Tomorrow it might be discussions with coworkers via the internet in some manner as you sip coffee on your own porch.



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  • 26
    VirtualKatie says:

    I had mine done and I think it’s very accurate. It told me that I have an issue metabolizing caffeine which I already figured out and it pointed out the conditions that I’m more likely than the general population to get and it turns out that my grandparents have them, and the ones that I’m less likely to get (like most cancers, and diabetes) and none of my grandparents have those. It even told me things like I’m likely to have sensitivity to certain drugs (warafin), and likely to be susceptible to certain chemical addictions (accurately indicated less likely to be addicted to alcohol and I really have little interest in drinking even though I’m a big partier.) I’m only a medical student but as deep as my education goes the science adds up. We actually talked about this in a DNA technology lecture I had last month. If you message me privately and tell me your background I’ll go into more detail based on your background. I don’t want to exclude anyone from discussion since we all have different backgrounds here. It does not seem like a hoax at all though. They found some of my relatives, some of whom share common listed surnames as well as those who do not. They even show you the places on your chromosomes were the shared segments are located. I think these things are really useful for both ancestry and health purposes. I’m more interested in the health related issues so I can take precautions to prevent/delay conditions I’m predisposed to. It’s only $99 and could possibly increase the quality of your life for many years. For me $99 is worth extending the quality my vision for evan an additional month.



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  • 27
    VirtualKatie says:

    Actually, I don’t mind giving you my username and password if you want to go play in mine and see what’s it’s all about. I feel that in the near future we will all have these done as part standard medical care.



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  • 28
    VirtualKatie says:

    Oooh, where is Dawkin’s published? In reply to #3 by Roedy:

    I suspect people like Richard Dawkins and Craig Ventnor who have published their genomes have revealed quite a bit more than they imagined.

    Over time, more and more information will be pulled from DNA. Also more and more information about their relatives.

    On the other hand they may have created Du…



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  • 29
    VirtualKatie says:

    In reply to #14 by crookedshoes:

    Hey,
    I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, 16 great greats, 32….etc….etc… If you go back with this pattern and count a “generation” as 20 years, then a mere 500 years ago, I had 16,000,000 great great great great etc grandparents. My ancestors are Irish folks. So…

    Ummm?



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  • 30
    VirtualKatie says:

    I’m less interested in this than in the very useful health information. It can also help you find relatives you didn’t know you had (I found a few 3rd cousins, and 1 2nd cousin who chose not to reveal herself…which you have the option to do). This can help old people put together their family trees since they love doing that kind of thing. 🙂 I think this would be the neat gift for a tech savvy parent or grandparent. No, I do not work for them I just really like this stuff.
    In reply to #17 by canadian_right:

    The $99 dollar tests can only give a hint as to your genetic history and roots. The claims these tests make are quite exaggerated. The only ethically questionable part of their marketing is the exaggerated claims.

    I personally don’t understand why anyone would care too much about their genetic heri…



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  • 32
    bluebird says:

    In reply to #30 by VirtualKatie:

    This can help old people put together their family tree

    Yes, I was thinking about ‘family trees/charts’ per the subject. Old timey ones are limited; a friend traced ancestors back to King John-Magna Carta. But, it took years – t’is very convoluted and dry.

    With new technology, clean flow charts, and tests, the sky’s the limit! One can now put 15th cousin thrice removed, Hickory tree, star dust on the tree if they desire! For me, it’s a different kind of connection – 3-4 generations vs cosmos.



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  • For me, personally, I would like to be tested to know some potential diseases which may have been inserted in my DNA.

    Take a look at this article: Scientists Find the Key DNA Structures Promoting Tumor Growth

    $99 could be a little expensive but it’s pretty worthy. We could do a lot of prevention things for the potential diseases which would be brought by our own DNA deficiencies. DNA screening and testing could be complex, coming first with complex small molecular structural determination and analysis. Well, it’s acceptable then.

     

  • I had my testing done by Ancestry DNA and paid $100.00 for the kit. After that, they sold me a couple more kits for only $50.00 each. I gave one to my mom and one to my husband.

    My results were not surprising. All Northern European as we expected. I have a few relatives who have done extensive ancestry research and I have volumes that explain it. Of course, there could’ve been some interesting surprises show up in the analysis, but nothing like that came through.

    My husbands results were definitely interesting. He comes from Algeria, North Africa and knows very little about where his people came from. His results showed only Berber and Southern European origins. This result has more impact than one may think. What’s important in this is that there is no Middle Eastern or “Arab” origins indicated at all. In that region of the world there is a movement to distance themselves from Arabic culture and the oppressive results of the Arab, Islamic invasion. The Berber tribes want to reclaim their North African, Mediterranean cultural roots. These DNA tests could be used to prove their statement of “We’re not as Arab as we think we are!”


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