A new DNA testing Web site with financial backing from Google
purports to “help you understand your DNA.” It’s called 23andMe
, a name that refers to the 23 pairs of chromosomes making up your genome.
The site’s test examines all your DNA (rather than focusing on the X or Y chromosome) for SNPs (pronounced snips
), which are variations that can show relationships between people. You have about 500,000 SNPs linked to everything from health issues to whether you like Brussels sprouts.
To use 23andMe, you order a kit, send in a cheek swab and later log on to get your DNA profile. It provides information on your phenotypes, or observable traits resulting from interactions between your genes and the environment. Your phenotypes can tell you about your ancestry and about how your genes may affect your health.
The site's Gene Journal
helps you understand your results with tools including an Odds Calculator (plug in variables such as age, ethnicity and genetic information to see what medical conditions you should be concerned about), a glossary and research article archive.
You can use ancestry tools
such as a Global Similarity Map that compares your genome to people around the world, which can shed light on where your ancestors came from. You also can consult a Maternal Ancestry Tree to learn about your family’s ancient roots.
The test is pricey at $999 per kit. What you can learn is more about health than genealogy, and it’s bound to be controversial as non-doctors try to absorb medical information. So of course, after you use all the cool tools, you’ll want share your findings with your doctor.