23andMe Review - UPDATED Feb 2018
If you are keen to explore the very roots of your genealogy, this 23andMe review is more than an adequate place to start. Genetic ancestry testing is a veritable time machine, carrying you far beyond any information your relatives and documentation can provide. You will unveil the origin of your ancestors and DNA relatives, with whom you share genetic pattern variations.
23andMe is a private biotechnology and personal genomics company located in California (Mountain View). It was founded in 2006 by Paul Cusenza, Anne Wojcicki, and Linda Avey. Their business model, which focuses on sending tests directly to consumers, was titled invention of the year in 2008 by Time Magazine. The initial concept was financially backed by giants like Google, New Enterprise Associates, Genentech, and Mohr Davidow Ventures. Read this comprehensive 23andMe review to find out more.
How 23andMe Works
The procedure is relatively simple. Just visit the 23andMe online shop and order your personal DNA testing kit. With the said kit, you will be given a unique barcode number. Register it on the website so that your results can be processed. The kit will also encompass all the instructions required for a saliva sample collection. Once you’ve completed it, you should send the sample back in the included pre-paid packaging
Each sample kit contains:
- A plastic shell packaging
- A comprehensive instruction manual
- A plastic bag for infectious waste disposal
- A tube cap
- A sample collection tube with the funnel cap attached
The shipment comes in the same box it must be returned in. That’s something you should keep in mind and resist the urges to throw it away.
Lastly, make certain that you’ve actually created a personal account on the 23andMe website. Note that providing your e-mail during the ordering process and registering the code does not constitute an account. To access the results, you will have to log in and inspect them online. They will not be sent via the post office, e-mail or any other medium.
Why Choose 23andMe
There are plenty of benefits from using 23andMe. We will focus on the results primarily in order to establish the value offered for the price. Further examination of the test results is reserved for the Results section of this 23andMe review.
Your results will include, among other things:
- Your ancestry composition info, determining the geographic region most closely aligned with your genes.
- Haplogroups, which is a genetic population having a common ancestor. You will discover yours.
- Neanderthal ancestry.
- You will also be granted access to the in-house DNA Relatives Tool, which will show you any potential relatives in their system.
- Detailed reports concerning your health. This part will reveal more about your physical traits from the genetic point of view. This result includes risks for developing certain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Carrier status for genetic mutations.
The short list reported here is just the tip of the iceberg. The complete test holds more than 74 different reports.
The service offered is an extraordinary feat of modern science, yet 23andMe makes it look rather simple from the consumer’s point of view. All the work that ever lands on the consumer comes down to ordering the service, registering at the website, providing the sample, sending it back, and creating a personal account. This amazing look in the past is made simple like ordering a new pair of shoes.
There are two separate levels of testing with 23andMe:
- Ancestry Service (99$) – This test is two-pronged. It comprises DNA matches and genetic heritage.
DNA relatives are established in the former part. It’s done by comparing your sample against other testers and revealing matching DNA. For each of the matches, you will receive a probable relation report, alongside the amount of the shared DNA. The other primary test determines your genetic heritage. This term shouldn’t be confused with genealogical heritage. The main task of the test is pinpointing where your genes come from.
The genetic heritage test checks 31 DNA sample populations (aka regions of the world). Some of the regions included in the percentages are Irish and British, German and French, Western/Southern European, Iberian, Italian, Sardinian, Balkan, Native Americans, Korean, Japanese, and many other.
- Health + Ancestry Service (199$) – This option is basically the test above plus health-related genetic health add-ons.
Here, your DNA is thoroughly checked for genes that are known for increasing the chances of certain traits and conditions. It should be noted that having a genetic predisposition for something doesn’t guarantee its actual presentation.
Trait reports are focused on your genetically predisposed physical characteristics. None of these are overly relevant to any of us, but it is nice to see how many of our physical traits are written in our genes. They measure the chances of things like freckles, eye color, and finger length ratio, as well as some more colorful factors like bitter taste perception and earwax type.
Keep in mind that these tests are available to people in the US whereas there may be some differences in the company’s offer for other countries.
Understanding The Results
DNA relatives – The matches “excavated” by the DNA-relatives part of the basic test can be sorted and searched using relationships. Some of them being father’s or mother’s side of the family, the surname, the number of grandparents with a shared birthplace, etc. These small criteria proved to be quite helpful in quickly determining probable genetic lines.
Every match can be clicked separately, offering information in more detail. You will see common ancestors, common surnames, genetic heritage, and haplogroups. The results depend on how much you have in common with the chosen match. You can also contact the matches through this sheet or choose to share additional information. 23andMe doesn’t feature family tree matches, which would definitely be a welcome addition to this otherwise impressive report count.
The genetic heritage results – These reports are incredibly detailed. The results can be viewed at 4 different levels:
- 90/80/70% conservative
- 50% speculative
Each of the levels will take a guess based on DNA samples collected in certain regions. The match will select your geographical region and compare your DNA with all the samples collected there. A full genome percentage from each area will be built for you after that. To talk in simplified terms, a “painting” of your genes will be made for you. The painting will change as you alternate the viewing level of the results.
If you want a bit clearer picture on the percentages, you can test with your parents and see exactly how much genes come from both of them. That can be your reference point for “translating” other numbers to layman’s terms.
- Ancestry timeline – This report will go a layer deeper and show you where exactly, within your newly discovered ancestry, certain genes come from.
Each ancestry is represented via differently colored bars, which show a pop-up once you hover over them.
- Haplogroups – Female users will receive their maternal haplogroup (male get a paternal one as well).
They are bodies of genes believed to come from a specific ancestor. This should uncover (in theory) the origin point of the first humans that carried your genetic line (paternal and maternal).
- Neanderthal DNA – The ultimate segment of the heritage section offers insight into neanderthal variations of your gene pool. For a better grasp of that number, you’re also privy to comparative information of all the 23andMe testers.
You’ll see your genetic predispositions for having straight hair, also factors influencing height, sneeze reflex at dark chocolate, and the possibility of back hair.
Genetic health results (a 100$ bonus) – It specifies your genetic “exposure” to 41 carriers of health conditions, 7 wellness, and 19 trait results.
23andMe actively contributes to the acceleration of science. It does that by beckoning its users to share their results in the interest of science. By participating in the research, you are fueling various genetic studies being done at universities.
Every instance of the research efforts is governed by the IRB (Institutional Review Board), which makes sure everything goes according to ethical norms and government regulations. Everything about user-participation is conducted online, so being part of an important research such as this has never been easier.
Privacy And Security
In this section, our 23andMe review will answer some of the most burning questions regarding the safety of your sensitive information:
- Anonymous genotyping – You can use a pseudonym up until the point of registration, when you’ll be expected to provide your real name. You can revert it later but, bottom line, 23andMe will have your real name and data. Your personal information is stored independently from your genetic material, however, and the only way of identifying it would be through the registered barcode.
- Protection – 23andMe uses SSL technology encryption in accordance with modern industry and technological standards.
- Sharing with 3rd parties – 23andMe will never disclose any self-reported or individual genetic information unless they receive your consent. However, they will use it as a part of aggregated information.
Shipping And Handling
The site features a list of countries eligible for receiving shipments from 23andMe. If your country is not on the list, there is nothing you can do to incur their services. Single test kits can be shipped with both standard and express methods. Multiple orders are shipped automatically by express international courier.
Return shipping includes meticulous FedEx instructions, packaging, export documentation, and a pre-paid bill for air transport. International shipping fee includes customs duties, unless you live in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Belarus or Moldova, in which case the recipient handles the customs duties.