I finally joined the wellness trend of having my DNA tested. Being from a scientific/mathematical background the DNA topic has always fascinated me (yeah, call me a nerd!). Just a refresher, DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is a molecule that contains the genetic instructions that make each of us and all living creatures unique. DNA is packaged into thread-like structures called chromosomes. There are 23 pairs of chromosomes in our DNA. DNA is passed on to offspring during reproduction.
DNA testing results have been used to properly identify a person through their genetic code. This has led to solving crimes and to the overturning of wrongful convictions of people. DNA testing can verify the paternity of a child, help lost siblings find each other, determine if twins are identical or fraternal, and tell us about our ancestral lineage. DNA testing can provide information on how a person responds to particular medications. DNA testing results can also explain what diseases we may be at risk of and what diseases we may pass on to our children. This knowledge allows us to take preventative measures to better manage our health and that of our children.
My husband, through his employer, had participated in a clinical trial for a DNA testing company a couple of years ago. It was interesting for him to understand which genetic markers he carried and may potentially pass on to our children. Genetic markers explain the relationship between inherited diseases and their genetic causes. The science of DNA testing has made great strides and has become much more accessible and affordable to consumers. I decided to use the home test kit by a company called 23andMe (named after the 23 pairs of chromosomes in our DNA). The home test kit is available online for $99.
After receiving the home test kit I opened it and followed the directions carefully. The kit contained: directions, a tube with a funnel lid for collecting the saliva sample, a cap, and a bio-specimen bag. The first step you need to do is register the test kit online. Each tube comes with a unique bar code that you link to your online account. You are then asked to collect saliva in the tube. You cannot eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum for 30 minutes before providing the sample.
After collecting the sample in the tube via the funnel, you close the funnel lid. When you close the funnel lid, a stabilizer agent is released into the saliva sample. You are then asked to remove the funnel lid and replace it with a regular cap. The next step is to shake the sample for 5 seconds to ensure the stabilizing agent is mixed in well with your saliva. You then place the tube into the bio-specimen bag and seal it. The bio-specimen bag goes into the original box the kit came in which comes with a pre-postage label. And voilà, you are ready to mail your sample.
23andMe will send me an e:mail to confirm receipt of the sample. What is not clear is how long the analysis of my sample will take. 23andMe will notify me of when my test results are uploaded to my online account. They will post ancestry reports, health overview, and personalized health recommendations. They claim they will keep me informed every step of the way. I also volunteered to be part of their global research DNA project. Although, DNA research has come a long way, there is still much to be learned. I will be asked to participate in various surveys and my saliva cells will be stored and used in continued DNA research. I’m not aiming to become immortal like Henrietta Lacks but I hope my little contribution helps.
I’m curious about learning more of my ancestral background. As a Colombian I know that our backgrounds are very diverse. I am expecting to have ancestral ties to native Colombians, European Spanish and maybe even African descent. I am also intrigued with what the health overview will report. Some people would venture to say that I am opening ‘Pandora’s box’ with this exercise. I feel though that knowledge is a powerful tool that can be used wisely to make informed decisions. Whatever I do find out, will allow me to better tailor my lifestyle and that of my children to enhance our health outcomes as best as we can. So I raise my glass of home-made green juice and say,
“Bonne Vie et Bonne Chance!”
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