Trait Testing Reviews for Impute

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

Impute’s traits tools were fun and straightforward to use. I trusted the accuracy of my physical appearance results, though the genes for hair color hadn’t all been conclusively discovered. The Political Opinion Module appeared reasonably accurate to me, but wasn’t based on solid findings, and so was only interesting as an entertainment tool. The Impute website itself was rather basic, and though it wasn’t at first obvious how to use it, I soon got used to navigating it.

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 ‘Kandinskyfy yourself’, which turned out to be a tool for generating genetic art in the style of Wassily Kandinsky.

I wanted to try out their two traits tools: ‘Appearance’, which would focus on my physical traits, and ‘Politics’, which would focus on my mental traits.

The Physical Appearance tool would calculate my approximate height and hair color. I read that in the future, it might be possible to predict height, hair color and facial form from genetic variants. I learned that their calculations for height were more accurate than their ones for hair color, since height is “highly hereditable”, whereas hair color predictions were still a bit more like guesswork.

The ‘Political Opinion Module’ I read was based on a study of political opinions performed by Hatemi et al in 2014 (they provided a link to the article). I read that the authors of the study concluded that the results were “too weak to be formally significant”, meaning that the connection between genetics and political opinion was actually very weak. Still, it might be a fun tool to try.

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: Physical Appearance

Heading back to the Impute website, I went to the “Modules” drop-down menu, and selected “Appearance”. I entered my login ID, and was able to provide my actual height and hair color to compare with my genetic predictions.

Height had to be given in centimeters, and for some reason they asked for my age. For hair color, there were two sliders for “Blondeness” and “Red-headedness”. I have dark brown hair, and so I left the red-headed slider at zero, and put the blonde one a bit above zero. I then selected “Run analysis”.

The analysis was pretty much immediate. There were two charts: one for my height estimate, and the other for my hair color estimate.

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My genetic height estimate.

My genetic height estimate.

The dot showing my height estimate compared to my actual height was larger and lighter than the others. I read that my height estimate was given as a “Z-score”, showing how I compared to the average height among the population, which was taken from a GWAS study.

According to the graph, I was predisposed to be slightly taller than the average person, though this apparently was not reflected by my actual height! It occurred to me, however, that this might have been more accurate had gender been taken into consideration, since I am slightly taller than the average British woman.

For the hair colour estimate, my predicted hair colour and actual hair colour were shown as circles on a colour chart (shown below).

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My hair color chart.

My hair color chart.

My predicted hair color was outlined in black and white, while my self-reported hair color was outlined in blue. As you can see, my actual hair color was darker than the estimate, which was a lighter shade of brown.

Still, I thought it wasn’t too far off the mark, since I do have brown hair, and I probably put the blonde slider a little too close to zero.

Results Section: Politics

Next, I tried the ‘Political Opinion Module’. Again, I had to enter my login ID. Additionally, I could put my age, and my political leanings on a slider ranging from “left” (liberal) to “right” (conservative). Once I’d done this, I ran the analysis.

This generated my results on a graph (shown below).

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My genetic opinion score compared to my actual opinions.

My genetic opinion score compared to my actual opinions.

To my surprise, my genetic opinions appeared to match my political ones quite well. However, reading the information, I read that there wasn’t “any significant political opinion effect from genetics”.

There was also a table showing the 20 genetic variants they’d looked at (shown below).

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A section of the genetic variants that may be associated with political opinion.

A section of the genetic variants that may be associated with political opinion.

One column showed “Risk/non-risk Allele” (an “allele” being a single letter of my DNA), though I wasn’t sure which allele was considered risky: the ones associated with being politically left-leaning or right-leaning, and so I couldn’t make much of this information.

Summary

Impute’s traits tools were fun and straightforward to use. I trusted the accuracy of my physical appearance results, though the genes for hair color hadn’t all been conclusively discovered. The Political Opinion Module appeared reasonably accurate to me, but wasn’t based on solid findings, and so was only interesting as an entertainment tool. The Impute website itself was rather basic, and though it wasn’t at first obvious how to use it, I soon got used to navigating it.

See a description of this DNA test from Impute >