Can you analyse DNA at home?

08 October 2019

BLOOD SAMPLE

A test tube containing a blood sample

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Question

Can I analyse my DNA at home?

Answer

Paul asks, via the forum, "can I analyse my DNA at home?" Naked Genetics host Phil Sansom had an answer...

Phil - You see... I've been having a think about this one, and it's a tricky one. Obviously you can get all these direct-to-consumer, I guess you call them, DNA testing kits. There's actually a whole suite of them at this point. And you can send off a bit of blood or something and get back your results. And that's sort of from home, right? That's about 100 bucks, I think they’re currently going for now, 100 dollars? And you can get details of your heritage, and also a health screen. And I think the key to answering this question actually is in the word analyse, right? Analysing DNA is very, very tricky. It's a whole field. And when you get your results back from Ancestry, or 20andMe, or whatever, they've done a quote-unquote “analysis” for you. And the results of that analysis need interpretation to actually make sense. For example, with the stuff like your heritage it might say you're 7% Irish. Cool. Great. What does that mean? What it actually means is that you share 7% of that heritage in common with Irish people today. It doesn't mean 7% of your ancestors were Irish, if that makes sense. So they're comparing it to the current DNA profile across the world. If someone says, “oh yeah, I'm 7% Irish”... mm, are you really?

Adam - I'd hope I'm a little more than 7% Irish!

Phil - I couldn’t tell! But when it comes to the analysis part… there's so many caveats when it comes to genetics. And even this coriander thing I was just telling you about, that one single base pair difference, that was only responsible for 10% of the variance. And if you don't have that kind of analysis there in front of you, then you haven't really treated the DNA as it should be treated: as just one piece of a huge puzzle. The other part of the question is: can you buy the huge DNA sequencing machines? And yes, and they cost about 20 grand.

Adam - So yeah, just stick on one your kitchen top. It’ll be fine.

Phil - Just sell your car.

Adam - Easy.

Phil - Easy.

Adam - Well, thanks very much. The home technology DNA kit is only 20 grand away.

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