Taking the Plunge: Diving Into my DNA

Hopefully this DNA analysis data will be better at telling my future than tea leaves or goat entrails.Well, I have finally decided to do it.  I have ponied up the money and signed up for 23andMe's DNA test.

This is a test that will look at over 500,000 different spots on my DNA.  From the results I'll be able to learn about my future health and my past ancestry.  Well, as much as I can learn given the current state of genetic knowledge.

And there's the rub.  I have held off on doing this for quite awhile because I am just not sure how useful it will be.

Most of the DNA studies on the big diseases like schizophrenia, autism, diabetes, heart disease, etc. have not been that conclusive.  They tend to find bits of DNA that have a very small effect on risk.

Undoubtedly as more studies are done, we'll find lots of bits of DNA like this and we'll be able to figure out our risk more accurately by adding them all up.  But we're not there yet.  In fact we're probably years away from being able to do this.

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I have also been a bit squeamish about sending my DNA to a company.  Yes, I know they'll be careful but still...it's my DNA.  You can't get any more personal than that!  I would hate for someone to get that information and use it against me (think insurance agent).

So why did I finally decide to go through with it?  One reason is that I get a lot of questions from people at the Ask a Geneticist site about how useful or good the test is.  Right now I have to tell them I don't know.  I'd like to be more helpful than that.

I also think that it will be fascinating to see all of my bits of DNA.  This is the stuff that is a big part of making me who I am.  It will be so cool to look into that crystal ball even if the future I see is a bit murky.

Of course as a big old science geek I'll be interested in that stuff...it's my bread and butter!  What I also want to do is try to imagine what the test is like for someone who doesn't go all gaga for genetics.  How is it for people who aren't necessarily mesmerized by the beauty of DNA and instead are mostly interested in diseases, traits, and ancestry?

I guess I'll find out soon.  I sent my spit in last week.  I'll keep you updated in future posts.

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