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Home DNA kits -- to test or not to test?

These days, home DNA tests are being used for far more than finding clues about Grandpa Joe or Great-Great Grandpa Isadore. There are groups that offer to find your perfect dating match based on DNA, and kits you can use to test for potential future health issues, like cancer, heart disease or obesity.

Ancestry.com, the genealogy site, is going to offer more advanced DNA testing for its members, helping people find ancestors all the way back to the 18th century. All you have to do is take a home DNA test.

Art Caplan is the incoming medical ethics head at NYU. He says, "The technology is pretty remarkable. You can certainly look for different distinctive markers on your genes and find them and say look all these other people have the same marker. I must be related to them. But, most of us, when we think about ancestry, we're talking about social and cultural groupings that are imposed upon those genes. It's not the genetic technology that's weak. It's that our ideas about ethnicity, race, are so tied up in our history, politics, that it's a little awkward to try and squeeze them on a genetic analysis."

And, he says, for all the advances in genetic testing, "It's not anything close to 100 percent accurate even for the small amount of genetic material you're looking at. So, you could think, ah, I finally know that I'm from this tribe or this group, maybe not."

Home DNA tests are being used for far more than finding clues about Grandpa Joe or Great-Great Grandpa Isadore. There are groups that offer to find your perfect dating match based on DNA. And kits you can use to test for potential future health issues, like cancer, heart disease or obesity.

Siobhan Dolan researches reproductive genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She says when it comes to health issues, at home testing is really problematic. "The data is not really clear cut what's right and what's wrong. So, you could send your data to three different companies and get three different results, and who's right? And so, it's really a difficult landscape for consumers to navigate and we don't advise it at this time."

If you're worried about heart disease, Dolan says, exercise. If you're worried about lung cancer, stop smoking. And if you do want a health-based DNA screening, she says go to a doctor’s office.

Dr. Caplan says there's another risk with all of these at-home-testing services: what do they do with your DNA. "Well, you know, the companies say we're going to keep everything private and I believe that. However, if the company gets bought by another company, then the DNA samples and the information about you go to the next company, and there's no restriction on the transfer of that information. We don't have laws that say you can't resell genetic material or information based on genetic findings."

Might want to think hard before you mail off that DNA swab.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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I have tried the convenience of at home DNA testing at http://www.squidoo.com/23andme-review and I found no risk about it…
And before I tested out I did several analysis about the advantages and disadvantages of home DNA testing. So far I could not found any risk … How come?

I'm surprised that a " multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk" is so unfamiliar with Google and Wikipedia -- where a broad range of information on the subject is available, along with references to real experts. In a "Marketplace Tech Report", we'd expect some understanding of the Tech.

The semantics of "at-home DNA testing" conjure images of consumers scared out of their minds from an "elevated risk" report for a medical condition that may not materialize. It's worth a look and an explanation for the unitiated; this report wasn't it.

The plain fact is that many more people have used at-home DNA testing for non-medical purposes (e.g., genealogy) than medical. Hundreds of thousands have taken genealogical DNA tests without respect to medical risks .

The difference between the kinds of testing is like eyeglasses versus a telescope. Both use optics, but only one is remotely medical.

One more time, an under-informed person has lumped all DNA Home Testing together. This is just wrong! Comments, opinions and discussions need to address the issues for each type of DNA testing separately - as the key issues are quite different. My interest is genetic genealogy and that alone is the focus of my comments.

Genetic Genealogy is legitimate and home testing is the only way to use this newest tool for genealogy. There are differences in the quality, support and value received from the different genetic genealogy testing companies. Family Tree DNA does approximately 90% of the genetic genealogy tests - after launching the concept in 2000. Their service and integrity are unmatched. There are other companies who offer varying levels of value, service and tests - including Ancestry.com mentioned in this article.

For more information on the types of dna testing for genealogy and the companies who offer them - go to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy at www.isogg.org or to the Journal of Genetic Genealogy at www.jogg.info

As far as someone getting hold of your dna and using it improperly, consider that there is no "chain of custody" on genetic genealogy testing and if anyone actually did get the dna sample you submitted, they couldn't be sure of whose dna it really is. (Is it yours, your family member's - or a distant cousin you have tested to learn more about a specific branch of your family.

Terry

One more time, an under-informed person has lumped all DNA Home Testing together. This is just wrong! Comments, opinions and discussions need to address the issues for each type of DNA testing separately - as the key issues are quite different. My interest is genetic genealogy and that alone is the focus of my comments.

Genetic Genealogy is legitimate and home testing is the only way to use this newest tool for genealogy. There are differences in the quality, support and value received from the different genetic genealogy testing companies. Family Tree DNA does approximately 90% of the genetic genealogy tests - after launching the concept in 2000. Their service and integrity are unmatched. There are other companies who offer varying levels of value, service and tests - including Ancestry.com mentioned in this article.

For more information on the types of dna testing for genealogy and the companies who offer them - go to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy at www.isogg.org or to the Journal of Genetic Genealogy at www.jogg.info

As far as someone getting hold of your dna and using it improperly, consider that there is no "chain of custody" on genetic genealogy testing and if anyone actually did get the dna sample you submitted, they couldn't be sure of whose dna it really is. (Is it yours, your family member's - or a distant cousin you have tested to learn more about a specific branch of your family.

Terry

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Be sure you get a subscriber's permission before emailing. Businesses that are taken seriously do not send out mass mailings via email. It could go as far as people not desiring to do business with you any longer.
[url=http://www.fakeoakley-glasses.com][b][/b][/url]Use Alt tags if your messages contain images. If an image fails to load or the recipient's client refuses to load images, the image's alt tag will appear. Make sure the descriptions are relevant so that people know what was supposed to be displayed. Make sure these are used on your links, as well.

When writing content, ensure that it is relevant information for your customers. If you focus less on selling and more on building rapport, you shouldn't have too much of a problem with spam filters. If you try too hard to avoid certain sales words like "deals" or "free," the mailing will likely irritate the recipient and get nabbed by spam filters anyway.

Call to action wording is essential to a successful email campaign. You have to tell your customers exactly what you want them to do. Include obvious links with instructions on how your readers should proceed once they get to your site. You can even repeat these sections in both ends of your message, the top and the bottom.

Do not ever send emails with headlines such as "Buy now"! [REMOVE] It is considered spammy and could cost you your good image. Your customers understand that you're a company and therefore you have to sell your product, but they will respect you more if you do so in a professional way. You will create a better relationship with your customers and increase the likelihood of them utilizing your services or products.
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Always ask permission before adding someone to your mailing list. Increasing your email list with people who haven't directly subscribed through your website can be bad for both the client as well as your business. Also, it is possible that the host of your e-mail service will remove your account.

Choose the times you send out your emails based on when your customers are most likely to read them. Newsletters that pertain to business, as you may expect, are most effective if mailed between Monday and Thursday. Try mailing leisure of family oriented newsletters on the weekend.
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I totally agree with Jackinga. Absolutely correct on home genetic testing! Adriene and others who write about genetic testing need a better background than a personal opinion when they are not directly involved with the subject, nor know the advantages for testing. General assumptions about a subject lead to false statements and opinions. Don't write an article unless you know about what you are speaking. A little research into the subject, contacting people in the know, etc. would be intelligent. These days you only have to Google Genetic Genealogy to find out how DNA testing is so very helpful to genealogists.

Sorry, Adrienne, but it is fairly obvious that neither you nor your quoted experts have done genealogical DNA testing. Their ignorance of this rapidly growing field of genetic genealogy is manifest.

Ancestry.com is a very late comer to the field of autosomal DNA (atDNA) genetic testing for family relationships. Other companies have long been far more active with tens of thousands of tests and relatively huge databases to help testees compare autosomal DNA results of up to 700,000 SNPs in order to identify living descendants of one of their ancestors. (Family Tree DNA of Houston, TX excludes SNPs that impact medical mutations and concentrate on 500,000 SNPs for family relationships only.)

DeCodeMe Genetics of Iceland was a pioneer company in this field but has since fallen by the wayside in terms of genetic genealogical testing. 23andMe offers both a medical test and a genetic genealogy test service. Family Tree DNA of Houston http://www.familytreedna.com/ offers Y-DNA, mtDNA, atDNA, and certain other SNP based services as well but is only focused on genetic genealogy.

I have been extensively testing myself and my family in genetic genealogy since 2002. I have used FTDNA, 23andMe, and have registered my Y-DNA and mtDNA at Ancestry.com.

Of these organizations, in my opinion, FTDNA is hands down the best with its surname projects, huge cohort database, and now with its Family Finder analysis tools for atDNA.

The FTDNA on-line tools include allowing a testee to upload a GEDCOM file ancestor tree for inspection by others who share significant IBD (Identical by Descent) blocks of atDNA on various chromosomes.

One is also able to diagrammatically show matches over 22 chromosomes compared to as many as 5 other people in one's match profile as well as to download the raw data.

23andMe also has similar tools, but are, in my opinion, not as easy to use nor as attractive to others trying to compare ancestral trees. 23andMe does not allow GEDCOM data files for instance, nor is the 23andMe test cohort as genealogically knowledgeable or as involved as the FTDNA test cohort. Almost 100% of the FTDNA cohort are focused on genealogy. Genealogy seems to be an afterthought the way 23andMe handles it, with medical testing being their flagship focus.

The goal in genetic genealogy testing is to find those who share some of your genome and then to contact them (by means of email) in hopes of finding more about your common ancestor than you already know. In this way I have found several distant cousins, who certainly had more information than did I. As a result I have extended my ancestral family tree back many generations, clarified my paternal descent line, and learned that I wear the Y-DNA R1b-M222 Northwest Irish haplotype. Though an anecdotal part of my family lore, since my Irish ancestors, date back to at least 1760 in the Virginia Colony and possibly before, it was genetic testing that confirm this paternal Irish heritage where no extant paper trail was known to exist.

In general, aside from deep ancestry issues which may also be explored, genetic genealogy is an Internet game as the data mean little in and of itself. It is by finding other descendants of a common ancestor that one is sometimes able to break down long standing genealogical "brick walls" and solve other genealogical mysteries.

At present Ancestry.com, the 500-lb gorilla, of Internet database subscription is announcing its offering. However, unless substantial changes have taken place this company has offered little in the way of customer support or help in interpretation in the past.

Education and support are things that people new to this technology usually need in order to understand how to interpret and what to do with their data. FTDNA with its huge number of active volunteer surname and location project managers, many of whom are highly educated and knowledgeable over large areas of mathematics, science and technology**, is head and shoulders the leader in this field and has been for many years now.

F0r an overview comparison of offerings in the field of autosomal DNA genetic genealogy, see the work in progress chart assembled by Tim Janzen, M.D. at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/21841126/Autosomal%20DNA%20company%20comparison%... This chart will most probably be presented in the future as an ISOGG Wiki page.

My bottom line is vastly different from yours, Adrienne. There is every reason to test for genetic genealogy purposes, if one is interested in genealogy. None of your quoted experts seem to have first hand experience in genetic genealogy testing, so their words leave me cold as they are not really qualified, in my opinion, to comment on the new to Ancestry.com atDNA test.

**The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG http://www.isogg.org/) is but one example of the high degree of expertise of the field of amateur genetic genealogists. The Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG http://www.jogg.info/) is an Internet based scientific journal of academic quality, many of whose article contributors are members of the learned amateur genetic genealogy community.

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