The Science Behind DNA Testing Kits
Ever since the discovery of DNA in the late 1990s, the scientific community has shown that one's DNA can reveal a vast array of information. One's DNA can also be obtained in a wide variety of ways as well.
Ancestry DNA Kits
DNA kits that help "determine" your ancestry have become extremely popular. It's always interesting to find out a bit more about your lineage. These kits often require one to either swab the inside of your cheeks or spit into a tube.
However, the science behind these kits isn't exactly concrete. According to Newsweek, "The kits can't tell you exactly where your ancestors lived or what ethnicity they identified with, but they can tell you if a lot of people who lived in a certain vague geographic area share similar DNA to you."
These DNA kits primarily rely on the information they receive from people that use the kits. This means that the data is limited only to what their database has. It's almost like a form of informational crowdsourcing. The more people that use these kits, the more information the companies have to work with.
Scientists believe if there were a larger, worldwide DNA database that these ancestry tests would be more accurate. However, since DNA test kit brands currently compartmentalize the information, the results should often be taken with a grain of salt. The accuracy of the results is heavily reliant on the information that's been accumulated by the database.
How Ancestry DNA Testing Kits Work
After depositing some DNA, whether it be through a cheek swab or saliva, the sample is sent out to the company's lab for testing. Then your genes are compared to the information they have in their databases.
It's important to keep in mind that each company has its own database, which can result in different ancestry results depending on the product that is used. If your DNA shows similarities to other information in their database, then that location will show up in the ancestry report.
DNA Kits Used To Test Risk of Health Conditions
DNA kits can be used for more than just identifying racial/ethnic genetics. They can also be used to identify whether you have genes that may increase the chance of developing specific health issues.
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Companies such as 23andMe are able to look at your genes and determine if you're at an increased risk for diseases such as breast cancer, early-onset Alzheimer's disease, celiac disease, and Parkinson's disease – just a few to name.
These tests should not be confused with diagnostic results. Those should and can only be determined by a medical professional, so it's important to take the results with a grain of salt.
Other Types of DNA Tests
23andMe also can tell you what genetic risks you may be likely to pass on to any biological children you may have. They're able to do this because through previous research it's been found that some genetics correlate with the development of a particular condition and/or disease. 23andMe is the first company to be approved by the FDA to market information about genetic risks for specific illnesses and conditions.
They also offer a test where your genetic weight is determined. It's important to remember that genetic weight does not take into account lifestyle factors that can contribute to one's weight. It only uses the information provided by one's genetics.
There are also paternal DNA test kits. These allow you to check to see if there is a biological relationship between a child and an adult. They can be purchased online from websites like Amazon for less than $100.
Cost of DNA Testing Kits
The prices of DNA testing kits depend on the company and what the kit is intended to test for. Most tend to be between $75 and $200.
For example, 23andMe sells its ancestry testing kit for $99, and its ancestry + health testing kit for $199. On the other hand, Orig3n sells both its nutritional DNA profile testing kit and its fitness genetic profile testing kit for $149.
DNA – A Key To Our Past and Future
The discovery of DNA in the 1990s has opened up countless scientific doors.
We're able to look into our past and in some ways, even our future. We're able to check our ancestry to a certain degree, we've learned how to identify true biological relationships, and now we're able to look at what genetic traits we're most likely to pass on to our children.
For a while, DNA analysis was only able to be done in crime labs and higher-end research facilities. Fast-forward 20 years and the industry has changed significantly.
Not only has DNA analyzing technology become more accessible, but now we even have the ability to order kits to our homes that can tell us more about ourselves than we can imagine.