Know that TV show where Marisa Tomei finds out she's third cousins twice removed with a small Nepalese man, and Eva Longoria learns she and I are genetic soul mates predisposed to breeding a race of superhumans? Well, for $299 and a wad of spit, you too could receive this type of good news. 23andMe's Home DNA Tests illuminate ancestry--both gaps in family trees and global origins--as well as analyze genetic codes to help assess one's predisposition to dozens inherited diseases.
Advancements in DNA testing methods, most notably the inclusion of autosomal DNA in data collection, allow 23andMe's ancestry reports to include an exponentially larger web of relatives. Most people add more than a hundred faces to their web of kin, with those of European descent often finding several hundred, and anyone with Ashkenazi Jewish DNA pinpointing well over a thousand. In addition to filling in entire generations of gaps in family history, and even tracking early ancestors' migratory patterns through time, the site's adjunct membership service, Relative Finder, allows members with newly-discovered relatives who are also members to locate one another, and make contact anonymously should they choose.
The understanding of genetic health history and predilection to future complications is intended to help participants and their doctors generate healthcare plans, as well as satisfy morbid curiosity. DNA reports indicate one's: risk of being stricken with over 40 inheritable conditions; sensitivity to certain prescription drugs; likelihood of acquiring age-related eye problems; and odds of being a genetic carrier of selected diseases and conditions that could affect children and future generations. So basically, the health component of 23andMe's Home DNA Test is a scientific means of exploring all the ways in which we might die and kill off our progeny. Sounds like a fun way to spend a weekend, eh? Maybe I'll stick with the ancestry report.
For explicit information about how 23andMe genotypes DNA and reaches its conclusions, click here.
And if you're still interested in joining the DNA club, getting in seems fairly painless. After ordering and receiving a test kit, all testees (heh, heh) must do is register their information online, hock a loogie into the tube, and mail it back to 23andMe. In 2 to 3 weeks, they will be able to log on to the company's site, and learn enough about their double helices to last 3 of the lifetimes they've just discovered will be cut short by heart disease.