Ancestry Testing Reviews for Impute

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At a Glance

Editor's Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Customer Service:
4 out of 5 stars
Clarity of Results:
3.5 out of 5 stars
References Cited:
5 out of 5 stars
Value for Money:
5 out of 5 stars

Summary

The Ethnicity Profile by Impute was an interesting tool, which allowed me to explore my ethnic heritage, and see how closely other ethnicities were related to mine, as well as each other. The Impute website itself was not terribly user-friendly, but simple enough for me to work out how to upload my data and access their tools.

Full Review

Impute.me is a non-profit website run by independent academics, offering genetics analysis. The site was established in 2015, and is led by Lasse Folkersen, the lead scientist at Sankt Hans Hospital, Denmark. They aim to provide up-to-the-minute genetic analysis using the latest research, and to present technical information in a way that is s user-friendly as possible.

Product Expectations

At first glance, the Impute.me site appears pretty basic. Clicking on “Modules” in the navigation bar, I found a list of the types of tests they offered, including a ‘Rare Diseases’ test, a ‘Mutation senser’ and something called ‘Politics’, which turned out to be a “sanity check” looking at whether genetics could predict a person’s political opinions.

Selecting ‘Ethnicity’, I read that this tool would generate an ethnicity profile using data collected by the 1000 Genomes Project (which they included a link to). The tool would analyse approximately 1000 genetic variants to do with ethnicity, and then perform a “cluster analysis” (there was a link to a wiki article explaining this, and I understood that they would look for correlation between my genetic variants and those included in their study to calculate my ethnic mix).

The tool would generate a graph, which I could use to determine which ethnicity was most similar to mine.

Ordering Experience

It wasn’t incredibly obvious how to upload my genetic data. But in the “Modules” drop-down menu I found an item labelled “ImputeMe (start here)”.

Here, I found I could upload my data without the need to create an account, though I did need to provide an email address so that my results could be emailed to me.

I read that I could upload my genetic measurements “such as those provided by 23andMe or ancestry.com”. They would then use imputation technology to fill in “millions of additional genetic variations that were not measured in the original data.” There was a link to a video on Kickstarter to explain this process, which would use “overall knowledge of human ethnicity and ancestry” to make educated guesses about the gaps in my genetic data.

I was surprised to find that once I uploaded my data, the imputation process would take “a few days”, after which I’d receive an email with a login ID, which would enable me to use Impute’s genetic analysis tools.

I uploaded my genetic data file, which I had already downloaded from 23andMe. It took about a minute for the file to upload. I entered my email, and left the box ticked to allow my data to be deleted after two weeks. There was a link to the “Terms of use”.

Clicking this took me to a very basic webpage with no navigation options. The Terms of Use were very short. Still, they seemed reasonable and transparent enough. I learnt that the site was non-profit and intended for educational and research purposes. They claimed no responsibility for any medical interpretations that users might make from their results.

I read that they took my anonymity “much more seriously than any other online genetics-service”, and would require only an email address to send me my results. I could choose to have my genetic data deleted two weeks after imputation, though it would be deleted anyway if the server was full.

They reserved the right to contact participants by email to ask if they would be interested in “follow-up discussions on academic research”, and claimed these emails were “entirely ignorable”. Well… fine.

Back on the upload page, I hit “Start imputation”, and a message popped up telling me that it would typically take between one and five days for my genomic data to be processed, depending on server queue. I would receive an email with my unique user ID and download instructions. I was immediately sent an email telling me my data was queued for imputation.

A couple of days later, I received an email telling me my imputed genome was ready.

The Results

The email contained a link to download a copy of my imputed genome, and also a login ID for Impute.me, which would allow me to use their genetic analysis tools. There was a link to donate to the site using PayPal.

Results Section: Ethnicity Profile

I went back to the Impute website. Under “Modules”, I selected “Ethnicity”, which brought me to the Ethnicity Profile generator. I entered my login ID, and hit “Run analysis”. My profile was then generated almost instantly.

I was presented with a 3D chart, showing the different ethnicities in clustered dots (shown below).

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The first view of my ethnicity profile.

The first view of my ethnicity profile.

In the information, I read that my own imputed genome would appear as a slightly larger black dot, and that I may have to zoom in to see it. There were tools allowing me to rotate, zoom and pan to different areas of the chart. I began playing around with the model, zooming in and rotating to look at the different clusters.

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My ethnicity profile from another perspective, with African ethnicities (blue) in the forefront.

My ethnicity profile from another perspective, with African ethnicities (blue) in the forefront.

I found that hovering my mouse over each dot would tell me more about which ethnicity it represented. At one end were different African ethnicities, shown in blue. At the other end were various South Asian ethnicities, in orange, brown and yellow. East Asian ethnicities were mostly red and pink, South and Central American ethnicities were shown in varying shades of green, and European ethnicities in purple.

Once I had identified the purple cluster as European, I started looking for myself there. I found my black dot near the edge of the cluster (shown below).

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My ethnicity (shown as a black dot).

My ethnicity (shown as a black dot).

I found I was pretty close to “British in England and Scotland”, which was what I’d expected. I was also very closely located to “Toscani in Italia” (i.e., people from Tuscany in Italy). I was also close to “Utah Residents (CEPH) with Northern and Western European Ancestry”. Slightly further out was “Iberian Population in Spain”, and further than this was “Finnish in Finland”.

At first, I had found the tool a bit daunting. But as I got used to using it, I liked being able to see the nearness of the different ethnicities to each other. After a while I did notice that the European ethnicities seemed to consist only of British, Spanish, Italian and Finnish. But possibly this was due to the difficulty of separating some of the European nationalities into distinct ethnic groups. I also couldn’t find Polynesian, Indonesian or Aboriginal ethnicities on the chart, which may have been due to a lack of genomic information.

There were also “Advanced options”, which I could use to change which ethnicities were displayed, allowing me to more easily explore each one (shown below).

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The ethnicity calculator, showing only East Asian ethnicities (and my black dot).

The ethnicity calculator, showing only East Asian ethnicities (and my black dot).

Summary

The Ethnicity Profile by Impute was an interesting tool, which allowed me to explore my ethnic heritage, and see how closely other ethnicities were related to mine, as well as each other. The Impute website itself was not terribly user-friendly, but simple enough for me to work out how to upload my data and access their tools.

See a description of this DNA test from Impute >