Unless you live on some remote island with no television or internet, chances are you have heard about commercial DNA test kits. These kits are either marketed as a tool to trace ancestry or a way to gain more insight about health and wellness.
If you are curious about them, you likely have a lot of questions about their accuracy and how they work. So before you decide to try a kit offered by one of the many providers, here is everything you need to know about these commercial testing kits.
What Made Commercial DNA Testing Possible?
The human genome is a complicated map filled with an immense amount of information related to the human body. With the help of technology and modern techniques of understanding DNA, scientists became capable of deciphering and understanding our genes. Nowadays, not only are we able to trace heredity through DNA testing but also find markers that relate to specific genetic mutations and illnesses.
When the human genome project was completed in 2003, a natural by-product was the ability to read DNA efficiently; hence, the proliferation of commercial DNA test kits. Reading DNA test results has also become more convenient for consumers. If you follow this site, you will find out more information about how to read and interpret the result. There is usually a breakdown of estimated ethnicity percentage as well as possible relative matches based on the company’s database.
DNA Tests for Ancestry: How Does it Work?
The process begins by collecting a sample using the DNA test kit. Now, depending on the company you chose, the analysis may be slightly different, but the scientific principle is the same. There are three types of DNA testing used to trace ancestry today:
- Mitochondrial DNA testing. This type of genetic testing determines the maternal lineage of an individual. Although both males and females have mitochondrial DNA, only the mother passes it down to her children. Tracing maternal lineage is quite helpful because mitochondrial DNA is one way of preserving information about female ancestors that is typically lost because of how families record and retain only the surname of the father.
- Y chromosome testing. In contrast with mitochondrial DNA testing, Y chromosome testing traces the direct ancestry of males in a family. However, this genetic test is only applicable to males. As such, if a female wants this type of test conducted, she will need a male relative to volunteer. One of the applications of Y chromosome testing is determining the relationship between families with similar surnames.
- SNP testing. This type of test analyzes a broad range of variations in a person’s genome. Most DNA testing companies use this method to get an approximation of a person’s ethnic background. Typically, they use unique algorithms to match the SNP test result against the information they already have in their database.
The success rate of these tests all boils down to the testing company’s methods. Indeed, technology has come a long way since the earliest foray into understanding the human genome. What is most impressive here is that commercial DNA tests are only bound to become more sophisticated in the coming years.
Genetic Testing for Hereditary illnesses: How Does it Work?
In addition to ancestry and genealogical research, another practical application of commercial DNA test kits is testing for genetic conditions and hereditary illnesses. The process involves identifying minute abnormalities in chromosomes, proteins, and genetic makeup. A person can learn whether or not he carries a specific genetic condition while at the same time, gain better insight into his overall health.
There are several ways of conducting genetic testing, such as:
- Biochemical, genetic test. This test studies protein activity levels. Any abnormalities will point to specific DNA markers that are associated with a genetic disease or disorder.
- Chromosomal genetic test. This takes a closer look at the entire length of DNA to determine changes and abnormalities, which rules out the presence of genetic disorders.
- Molecular genetic test. This test can involve either one specific gene or the entire length of DNA to look for particular abnormalities or mutations.
When it comes to genetic tests conducted to identify hereditary illnesses and disorders, the technology is still evolving. The information gathered through these methods can significantly help the healthcare industry, and at the same time, educate a person about his health. But are commercial DNA testing companies already using the level of sophisticated methods needed to accurately gather this type of data from a person’s DNA? The answer depends on the specific genetic testing process used by the company.
How Accurate are These Tests?
The pioneers in commercial DNA testing have well-established services and facilities, which means consumers have little to doubt when it comes to the accuracy of results. However, the same cannot be said about other, less reliable companies.
One of the potential issues when you choose to buy a DNA test kit from an unknown provider is whether or not they conduct the gene sequencing well. Another concern is that these companies also make use of different processes to test for specific genetic attributes or traits. What this means for you is that the results from one consumer DNA test kit may be different from another.
While it is true that there may still be some discrepancies when it comes to testing for genetic traits as well as markers for hereditary illnesses, one thing that is undeniable about these tests is their effectiveness in tracing a person’s ancestry. If there is one thing that these commercial testing kits are doing right, it is helping people reconnect with their ancestors and long-lost relatives.
Is it Worth Taking a Commercial DNA Test?
Commercial DNA test kits are quite affordable, which is why many people do not think twice about trying them. But whether or not it is worth your money depends on why you want to take it in the first place. If you are going to use a DNA test kit to get insight into your health or to build a family tree, by all means, do so.
Considering that the DNA testing company adds your results into their database, perhaps curiosity is not so bad a reason, after all, since every test contributes to a broad database of results that could potentially connect generations of families.