Discover Your Past through Your Genes

By: Martina Albuja

What if there was a way to find any living relative you didn’t know about? How would you like to discover who your ancient ancestors are? What if you could learn about what diseases you could develop in the future? What if you could know the traits your child will have or what genetic diseases he/she is predisposed to?

“Two individuals share as much as 99.9% of the same genetic material and differ in only 0.1% of it” (Geneplanet, n.d.). DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the hereditary material of an organism found in the nucleus of every cell. DNA contains instructions that an organism needs to grow, live and develop, and that guide the cells of the body to perform their role. DNA is composed of nucleotides each containing a phosphate group, a sugar group, and a nitrogenous base which varies between nucleotides since there are four: adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. Since DNA is too long to fit in a cell, it twists inside a chromosome. Each human being has 46 chromosomes, or 23 pairs, and the numbers of chromosomes vary between species. Genes which are made up of DNA are inherited from both parents and are the ones that contain the instructions to produce proteins that determine your traits.

“30 million people in the United States are living with genetic diseases. This equates to 1 in 10 Americans or 10% of the U.S. population” (Global Genes, n.d.). A genetic disorder is caused when a mutation occurs in one or more genes that change the instructions of the gene to produce the proteins so they can’t work properly or can’t work at all. Most of the genetic disorders are inherited from the parents, but there are some that are not, and even though there are treatments, most don’t have a cure.

23andMe is an organization that provides a “DNA analysis service that offers information and tools for individuals to learn about and explore their DNA” (23andme, n.d.). Founded in April of 2006 by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza, and Anne Wojcicki, 23andme offers people a variety of options at a reasonable price ($99). By sending a sample of their saliva through a DNA kit that is provided to them when they buy the service, 23andMe can help people find living relatives, discover ancient ancestors, discover what diseases they could eventually develop, look at their offspring’s traits and predisposition togenetic diseases and trace back their history and their family’s history.

What if you had a sister that you didn’t know about? 23andMe helps people find any living relative by matching their DNA with people’s DNA around the world. “On average, each customer finds 180 relative matches” (23andme, n.d.). 23andMe helped Greta connect and meet her sister Stacy, who she had never known existed. Stacy knew she had a sister, but didn’t know who she was, where she was, and how to find her. Thanks to their cousin Lara Oliver, Greta heard about 23andMe, and through the DNA matching test was able to reunite with her sister. But 23andMe does not only help people to find their living relatives, it can also help people trace their lineage and find who were their ancient ancestors and where they lived by comparing their DNA to populations around the world. A satisfied customer of 23andMe exclaimed, “23andMe opened up even more doors to my ancestral story. It is the music I’ve been longing to hear”. In addition to this, 23andMe also offers a “Glimpse into the future” by allowing people to see the traits their child could have and if he/she is predisposed to any genetic disorder. They can also tell people which disorders they could eventually develop. There are also research projects that people can contribute to. By providing their DNA, scientists and researchers are able to find ways to prevent genetic disorders, find better therapies and treatments, and eventually find a cure to those disorders.

Even though 23andMe has helped a lot of people around the world like Stacy and Greta, there are people who think it is not moral, people who believe that some things are best left unknown, and people who believe that the results provided are not accurate or do not have scientific evidence to support them.

23andMe may not be useful to everyone or may seem immoral to some, but despite all that, it is a great service that has brought families together and which have given people an insight to where they come from.

So if you want to find more about 23andMe and how it works visit http://www.23andme.com. Also, if you want to read more stories about how people has benefited and how has 23andMe helped people visit https://www.23andme.com/stories/.

Bibliography:

23andMe. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12,2015, from https://www.23andme.com/

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from https://www.genome.gov/25520880

Genetic Disorders: MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/geneticdisorders.html

Interesting genetic facts. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://www.geneplanet.com/genetics/interesting-genetic-facts.html#

Genes

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