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The Financial Express

Your spit knows about your ancestors


Your spit knows about your ancestors

“Where are you really from?” - we hear this common question asked by white people in real life or movies. But what’s the correct answer to this? 

An organisation based in California called 23andme is there to give you a scientific explanation of this question based on your DNA. And the most interesting part is that you can avail of the service only using your spit! 

Their lab extracts DNA from your saliva sample. Then the lab processes the DNA on a genotyping chip that reads hundreds of thousands of variants in your genome. Your genetic data is analysed, and a report is generated within 3-4 weeks based on deep-rooted scientific and medical research. 

Is the breakdown of your ancestry the only reason you should consider their service? Chances for several diseases like T2D (Type 2 diabetes) or hereditary cancer to occur in the body can be explained by genetics. Data from a few large studies estimate between 20-80 per cent contributions of genetics in the risk for developing T2D. However, other variables like age, environment, weight, diet and activity also play a vital role. 

23andme provides a wide range of services. Using their ‘Ancestor breakdown’ service, you can learn about your root region from 500 years ago. You might be 2.5 per cent Korean and 23 per cent Norwegian. 

Their ‘Trait reports’ service allows you to learn about the likelihood of your characteristics, such as your probable favourite ice cream flavour or whether you have a chance of having baldness. 

These two services combined build an automatic family tree for you. Through their service, you might find your aunt or your cousin who lives in Hawaii while you are in Bangladesh! 

In 2013, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to 23andme for not providing sufficient evidence about the workability of their genetic test. Their service was paused for a while, and after 7 months, they resumed their functions. 

Currently, they are certified by FDA and have over 12 million customers worldwide. However, a false positive or negative result doesn’t impact the user’s medical habits. It’s always advisable to contact medical professionals about any decisions rather than being solely dependent on 23andme’s result.

Needless to say, your genetics are not your destiny; a healthy lifestyle is a key to altering potential risks. 

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