I splurged on a DNA profile from 23andMe.com this past spring. There was a special deal for both ancestry and health profiles for a deep discount. This web-based testing site was started by the wife of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. The company takes your DNA sample and maps and connects it to characteristics in both your paternal and maternal family lines. The health portion gives you a sense of your susceptibility to certain types of cancer and other diseases that have been shown to be hereditary.
There is a large online component to this service with in-depth reports that are fun to explore from time to time, and to share with other family members. What I like most about the service is that the one-time purchase locks you in, with regular updates regarding new scientific findings on health as well as tribe connections. An online social networking component provides a place for people to share further details or experiences that relate to genetic characteristics.
In North America, especially, this ability to see the mix of one’s ancestral tribes is really interesting. I wasn’t surprised by my largely European profile. The health component shed some light on some additional genetic susceptibilities that could be confirmed my parents, based on the mortality of their own relatives.
The ability to map our origins is an incredible thing that will certainly get more precise as genetic research improves over time. It’s fun to think about where we’ve come from. I also believe there’s a certain amount of hereditary connection to the land of our ancestors, and in seeing similarities that you share from people of other lands.
One thought, as I’m seeing some of these maps for the first time, is that they share some comparison to psychographic maps that are used in the business world for the economic classification of neighborhood populations. Comparisons of where you come from, and where you live, help to define us, not just for our characteristics, but for our proclivities related to income and personal style.
Overall, I would certainly recommend the process for anyone with a geographic bent. I do wonder where this level of genetic sharing might lead. Will we start to include this type of detail on our profile pages in social networking sites? Seems like this origin mapping is a step ahead of race, and it’s certainly not nationalistic, as these representations are regional rather than country-specific. Will we start identifying by genetic tribes rather than the origins and alliances of our grandparents?