Humans are born with a natural curiosity about ourselves and the world in which we live. Much of our infancy and early childhood consists of consuming the environment surrounding us, our five senses providing much of the data. As we grow more and more self-aware, many of us begin to ponder where we as humans come from. As science and technology advance, archaeologists, geneticists, and other scientists come closer to answering this question definitively. These advances also allow individuals to begin to answer the question Where did I come from? by using increasingly popular personal genomics services. A few companies providing these services include AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and deCODE genetics.
Several years ago, my interest was piqued, and I purchased a testing kit from 23andMe. I received my kit in the mail, sent off a vial of my saliva, and waited anxiously for my results. I wasn’t sure if I was more excited to receive information about my ancestry or my genetic health risk data! After a few long weeks, I received my results and sifted through my information. 23andMe reports ancestry as the estimated composition of DNA from 31 populations in the world. The report also includes estimated percentage of Neanderthal DNA, haplogroup, potential health risks, likelihood of inherited traits, estimated response to certain drugs, and likelihood of other inherited conditions. In addition to analysis and estimations, 23andMe also gives you access to browse and download your raw genetic data. When reviewing the analysis and risk estimates, it is important to keep in mind that this is just a snapshot of your DNA. Not all genetic markers are reported and analyzed, and other factors, such as environment and lifestyle, are not taken into account.