Surprises in 23andMe’s DNA reports might cause users to do a spit take.
23 things about my experience with 23andMe:
- For Christmas this year, I bought 23andMe kits for several loved ones so we could "get a breakdown of your global ancestry, connect with DNA relatives and more." Because I'm so generous. Or because they were half off.
- OK, so I'm really not that generous. What do you mean I have to pay $5.99 to ship each one?! Oh well, it's for family. And speaking of family and money, maybe I'd find and endear myself to a long-lost rich relative during the process.
- One must fill her 23andMe vial with sufficient saliva -- a tall order after following all the other directives: "Do not eat, drink ... chew gum, brush your teeth, or use mouthwash for at least 30 minutes prior to providing your sample." It might take all night, but eventually, spit happens.
- Terms and conditions. Privacy. Informed consent. I quickly approved everything 23andMe asked of me (is "hasty" nature or nurture?). Considering there are important ethical and legal issues at the core of genetic ownership, I should have studied everything more carefully. I saw "Any Genetic Information derived from your saliva remains your information," and that was good enough. I was weak after all that spitting.
- Twelve days after the sample was sent back, I got a notice it was received. And 17 days after that, I got the email: "Your reports are ready! Jennifer, welcome to you!" I was about to embark on an amazing journey of science and self-discovery! I was about to find out how truly diverse, complex and interesting I am!
- I'm 99.9 percent European (mostly British & Irish).
- Yep, I'm a totally basic white girl. Which was already evident by my dancing, no DNA required.
- As for the rest of me, I am less than .1 percent Middle Eastern & North African, less than .1 percent Sub-Saharan African and less than .1 percent "Unassigned" -- whatever that's supposed to mean.
- Because I'm so dang desperate to think there's something mysterious about me, I'm interpreting "Unassigned" as "Unicorn."
- I'd learn my maternal haplogroup. That wasn't special either: "K1a4a1 is relatively common among 23andMecustomers." K. Fine. Whatever.
- But then I learned something truly remarkable about myself. In one aspect of my ancestry I have 303 variants. "This is more than 86 percent of 23andMe Customers."
- Unfortunately, that would be my Neanderthal ancestry. Neaner, neaner, I'm more Neanderthal than you.
- While none of my close family members' data had yet been registered, I found I have some 1,130 relatives in my 23andMe DNA Family, everywhere from California to Massachusetts. Maybe I could organize a big reunion.
- Be responsible for rounding up a bunch of Neanderthals? Maybe not.
- When that was all I got out of the ancestry report, I immediately upgraded for $125 and had my 23andMe health reports made instantly available.
- And then I panicked. After all, what if I really did have some wonky, worrisome genes? Still 23andMe's disclaimers said reports do not diagnose disease or take into consideration conditions like "lifestyle, environment and family history."
- Being handed -- well, emailed -- one's health reports is kind of like being on Maury, and praying the host announces "You are NOT the father!"
- In the case of Parkinson's disease, I do NOT have the genetic variants!
- In the case of Late-Onset Alzheimer's disease, I do NOT have the genetic variant!
- But, in the case of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD, "the most common cause of irreversible vision loss"), I DO have two copies of a genetic variant and a "slightly increased risk." Not a problem. I always wanted a chauffeur and a service dog anyway.
- In the case of celiac disease, I DO have one of two genetic variants. No bread?! This news was way worse than blindness.
- I also found out a whole bunch of other random genetic stuff (I'm more likely to move in my sleep, consume more caffeine and tolerate lactose). Even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear ("your genetic muscle composition is uncommon in elite power athletes"). Even if it really wasn't what I wanted to hear ("your genes predispose you to weigh about 7 percent less than average" -- what is my excuse going to be now?).
- Ultimately, when it comes to purchasing the upgrade, I'm glad I caved (how very Neanderthal!)
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Style on 02/06/2018
Print Headline: DNA test confirms whiteness and Unicorn genes