The November 2007 issue of Wired ran an article entited 23AndMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1,000. Welcome to the Age of Genomics.
I wondered if genetics played a role in my earlier depression, affinity for alcohol, and heart problems. Ten days before Christmas I sent 23andMe $999, and they sent me a tube to spit into in return. (CSI in the privacy of your own home!)
On January 7, an email from 23andMe arrived: "Congratulations! Data for Jay Cross is now available on the 23andMe website. Please sign in to your account at: https://www.23andme.com/user/signin/. You will need to enter your username and password." I was excited by what I might find.
The interpretive component of 23andMe is the Gene Journal. Here are the areas it reports on. I must admit that I was underwhelmed.
Alcohol Flush Reaction
Bitter Taste Perception
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Muscle Fiber and Sports
Restless Legs Syndrome
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Earwax type? Alcohol Flush Reaction? Bitter Taste Perception? Lactose Intolerance? I either don’t need to know these or had figured it out experientially (I can drink milk and eat Brussels sprouts.)
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)? That hits home. I’ve had several heart attacks, the first at age 44 after giving up smoking and taking up jogging. Surprise, surprise. The Gene Journal says I’m 20% less likely than most people to have a heart attack.
Restless Legs Syndrome. I wouldn’t have cared about this one, but I was skeptical of the 23andMe data, and I actually have restless legs syndrome. The Gene Journal says I’m 30% more likely than most to have RLS.
Type 1 Diabetes. One of the eight markers for Type 1 Diabetes indicates that I’m twice as likely to come down with the disease than most people. (I hope the other seven markers cancel that one.)
All of the other conditions were in the normal range. Let’s turn to my ancestry.
Moms pass mitochondrial DNA to their children. Mine is like that of Brits and Scandanavians. For what it’s worth, here is our creation myth:
Haplogroup J originated about 45,000 years ago on the Arabian Peninsula not long after modern humans expanded out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages of J, including J1, into Europe. Today the haplogroup extends as far west as Iceland.
The Global Similarity feature…
…identifies which of several dozen selected populations you most resemble genetically. Though common ancestry is one cause of genetic similarity, some people will find themselves similar to populations they are genealogically unrelated to due to chance or sampling effects. It is also possible your results will change as our reference sample grows.
My highest number is for European, followed up by Near Easterners, Central Asians, North Africans, Native Americans, South Americans, and Siberians. I appear to be a mongrel.
It’s time to visit the Genome Explorer:
Most of the DNA inside each of your body’s cells is divided into pieces called chromosomes, with the remaining DNA found in tiny loops inside your cells’ mitochondria. Click below on any chromosome or the mitochondrial loop to see the genes and SNPs it contains.
My genome is about as interesting to read as garbled machine code. It looks like AA, AC, GA, TA, CC, etc. There are numerous links from gene pairs to articles on Google Scholar, but I can’t make sense of them.
In time, this piece of 23andMe will prove the most valuable. The deeper science’s discoveries, the more I’ll be able to make sense of my Ts and As.
Do I recommend 23andMe? Not yet. Wait a while.
Previous post on this topic: The Jay DNA