By Julia Block, Copy Editor
At the end of 2019, I was gifted a 23andMe ancestry and health kit, which was able to tell me about my ethnic background composition, my likeliness to develop certain diseases or deficiencies, as well as some specific traits and characteristics I may have.
The process of getting your DNA tested is simple. Once you receive your kit in the mail, there is a paper pamphlet that helps direct you toward how to begin, and the app will also take you step-by-step through the process being explained on paper.
First, you register your 23andMe kit on their website or on the mobile app by scanning the barcode, or typing in the barcode’s number, into the website or app.
Once this is complete, you are able to spit into the funnel on top of your test tube that comes in your kit. The pamphlet, website, and app emphasize that you should not eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth or chew gum for at least 30 minutes prior to spitting for the test. It is also important that your saliva fills the test tube up to the line, without including the space your spit bubbles take up in the tube.
Next, you seal the funnel shut on the test tube until you hear a clicking sound. Once this happens, the funnel releases liquid meant to stabilize your DNA to make it last for testing time.
Once the liquid is released into the test tube, remove the funnel and seal the test tube shut with the cap provided. Make sure the cap is on tight to ensure your spit does not leak out of the tube.
Then, you are supposed to shake the test tube for five seconds. Once the saliva and stabilizing liquid are mixed together, the tube can be placed and sealed in the plastic bag that comes with your 23andMe kit.
The sealed bag with your test tube is put right back in the original box; the box the kit came in is used for sending it back to the lab. The price for postal services is already taken care of for you.
As time goes by, 23andMe sends you updates about what stage of the DNA testing process your DNA sample is in, and within three to five weeks, your results will be ready to view.
Results can be viewed through their website or through the mobile app, both of which are easy to interpret and understand.
After looking through my ancestry composition, I learned that I’m 96.8% European and 3% Western Asian and North African. This breakdown continued further saying I am 16.9% French and German, 11.6% British and Irish, 15.6% Italian, 20.3% Ashkenazi Jewish, and more. I had smaller percentages of Scandinavian, as well as Greek and Balkan.
Before doing the 23andMe DNA testing, I would often feel very unsure of what to tell people when they asked about my background or my ethnicity. The DNA test made it very clear in a scientific, genetic-based way.
Additionally, the health portion of my DNA testing kit was interesting to explore because 23andMe was able to use my DNA to predict that my eyes are blue, that I have dark blond hair, that I have very fair skin, all of which are accurate physical descriptions of how I am.
Also, 23andMe was able to tell me which genetic variants make me more or less likely to develop certain diseases or deficiencies. I did not have any genetic variants that increased my risk of any diseases, except for age-related macular degeneration.
According to mobile app, age-related macular degeneration can be predicted through two main genetic variants. My results show that I have both of these variants that were tested for. This means that I am at an increased risk for developing this disease, which may cause irreversible vision loss later in my life.
However, 23andMe explain to their customers that their results do not diagnose any diseases, and they can’t say if you will or won’t ever get the diseases tested. All information that is related to your health is merely based on genetic tests of certain genetic variants; other factors come into play, such as lifestyle habits and diet, which could increase or decrease the likeliness of developing certain diseases or conditions too.
Overall, I was impressed with how much detail the 23andMe DNA test was able to provide about my genetic makeup, background, and health and trait predictions. I would definitely recommend the 23andMe kit to anyone interested in where they come from and what their DNA says about how or why they are the way they are.