Neil's News


14 January 2013

One of the advantages of living in the future is that one can do the things which were previously science fiction. Self-driving cars? Check. Terminator vision? Check. Private space stations? Check.

[23andMe] Last week I had my DNA sequenced. Not the entire 3.2 billion base pairs, but rather the 678 thousand SNPs that make up the majority of what separates one human from another. It is surprisingly scary to unlock the report for the first time. One could discover that one has a high risk of developing Parkinson's or some other serious ailment. Of course information is power, and knowing which sword of Damocles is hanging over ones head is hugely valuable in mitigating its danger.

In my case the medical report was somewhat boring. A few elevated risks for some minor ailments, and a few reduced risks for others. This is one case where boring is good.

More interesting is some of the trivia:

  • Some 2.7% of my DNA matches Neanderthal DNA; higher than average. This means one of my ancestors had some inter-species fun.
  • In addition to having mostly British and some Irish DNA, I also have significant Danish DNA. This is understandable given the 300 years during which the Vikings raped and pillaged their way across northern Europe.
  • My mitochondrial DNA is of type N1a, a nearly extinct maternal haplogroup. Apparently this means that my 25 x great-grandmother lived in Iran in 1500 AD. She must have had an interesting story.
  • 977 living relatives (mostly distant cousins) have been found in places as diverse as New Zealand and Uganda.

With the price at 23andMe down to $100, it is definitely worthwhile to run the analysis. It's pretty simple: they send you a tube, you spit in it, send it back, then check their website a couple of weeks later. It could easily save your life.

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