Provider Profile: 23andMe
23andMe offer a DNA test which reports on a person’s genetic ancestry. The service traces the maternal and paternal lineage of an individual and analyses their autosomal DNA, to reveal the ancestral groups they’re descended from. 23andMe also connect customers with their living relatives and can create a family tree based on this data.
23andMe is one of the world’s largest genetic ancestry services with more than 650,000 genotyped members. Once a provider of health related DNA testing, 23andMe now focus purely on genetic testing that relates to ancestry. The service was founded to help advance genetic research and allows companies to purchase both anonymous and named DNA records – depending on 23andMe customer preferences – to undertake genetic studies.
23andMe encourages its online community to actively participate and contribute to scientific research. Those who’ve taken a 23andMe test are able to answer survey questions to further 23andMe’s understanding of genetic traits, producing a constantly growing and evolving resource to collectively aid the scientific community.
Genetic testing can provide detailed information about our history, and enhance our understanding of the genes we inherit and pass to our children. With an ever-expanding catalogue of genetic discoveries, and with more people engaging with genetic testing services than ever before, 23andMe are well placed to realise the potential of mass consumer DNA testing.
The test itself
23andMe report on an individual’s ancestral composition by analysing mutations – aka Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) – in their DNA. These mutations allow them to identify genetic associations such as European ancestral links, which can be broken down into specific regions such as Britain, Scandinavia and Italy.
After taking the test and dispatching the sample, an email notification indicates when a customer’s results are ready and they can sign in to an online account to view them securely. There’s an ‘Ancestry Composition’ map that shows which population groups have contributed to the genetic ancestry of that individual, and a report titled ‘Your Extended DNA Family’ which will list any distant living relatives in the 23andMe database. Customers have the option to contact these relatives – depending on their settings – and can choose to see where they’re located.
The 23andMe results also include data about haplogroup and subgroup, showing where a person’s ancestors were located up to 500 years ago, their migratory history, and which celebrities share their genetic heritage.
There are dozens of other features such as the ‘Neanderthal Ancestry’ section, which shows the percentage of an individual’s DNA that’s been inherited from Neanderthals, a species that once competed with Homo sapiens for global dominance. There’s a ‘Global Similarity Map’ which plots a person’s DNA against others in the database, and displays the location of those they’re most genetically similar to. A ‘Family Traits’ section lets customers compare their genetically determined physical characteristics, and there’s even a tool which composes a piece of music using only DNA.
23andMe are one of the most well known DNA testing providers in the world, having invested heavily in marketing over the past few years. With a broad range of well-designed, interactive features that are easy to use, 23andMe provide a unique and comprehensive genetic testing service that is competitively priced.
- To read independent reviews of 23andMe’s DNA test, including our Editor’s review, click here.