Is Home DNA Testing Worthwhile?

Home DNA testing has really hit the big time, with tests from companies like 23andme.com and ancestry.com flying off the virtual shelves. Many other brands are out there, each offering outcomes tailored to specific needs. People buy home DNA tests for two major reasons: genetic indicators of possible diseases that might strike later on in life, and genealogy, finding new relatives and geographical and national points of origin for those family connections. Genetic health is the more confusing of the two, as people often over-interpret the results and end up scared out of their wits.

What Home DNA Testing Can Tell Us

As recently as the last decade, gene sequencing was time-consuming, expensive (around $1000), and required a lab. Now, all it takes is a sample of the undifferentiated epithelial cells found in saliva and a few weeks. The need for several weeks is solely due to the time each sample has to wait in a processing queue. The tests come in kits that contain vials of reagents. People spit into the vials, then mail them to the manufacturer. After the gene tests are done, the recipient receives reports that focus on health indicators and genealogy. Some kits target health issues, while other home DNA tests are part of the trend called personal genomics. Personal genomics involves people learning as much as they can about their health as it’s “written” in their genetic codes. The goal is to identify possible disorders that might manifest themselves. Some kinds of predispositions to cancers are readily apparent in a person’s genes. A few kinds of dementia likewise can be found by gene testing. More and more disorders are discovered all the time, as over the last several decades, medical geneticists have learned a lot about what diseases are linked to genetic issues.

There’s some practical uses for DNA testing. Some disorders can be slowed down with early detection. There are several forms of dementia that respond to treatment in the early stages. Although there’s no cure, getting help early in the disease’s life cycle can give a person a better quality of life. However, a home DNA test is absolutely no substitute for a doctor’s consultation. Home DNA testing that reveals potential health issues should be taken with a grain of salt and some caution. After getting a scary result, that’s the time to contact a doctor and begin exploring the issue. The home test isn’t the end of your investigations, it’s the beginning.

DNA tests really shine when it comes to researching one’s ancestry. Everything from the origin of your ancestors to the races that have gone into making you who you are. In fact, most tests can show how much archaic DNA you have; that is, how many, if any, Neanderthal ancestors you have lurking in the distant past. Establishing kinship lines is absolutely crucial to genealogists, and the typical home DNA test kit really shines here.

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