I say my wife was raised Ukrainian, because she wasn’t born Ukrainian. She’s adopted, and this week we found out what she “really” is – or did we? Her DNA breakdown shows that she’s mostly English and Irish, she has a bit of Scandinavian and Gallic genes in there, and less than a tenth of a percent from Southeastern Europe or Ukraine.
Does it matter?
It’s a question of nature vs nurture, really. My sons were both born in Vancouver, but moved to Calgary when they were younger than 3. They have much more prairie life experience than coastal. The large open sky of Alberta feels more like home to them than the dank smell of seaweed on a foggy morning. Jennifer was adopted when she was just a few days old and while she carries the genes of boiled dinner and mushy peas, it’s perogies she craves.
We discovered Jennifer’s genetic history when she dropped a few millilitres of saliva into a vial and we mailed it off to 23 And Me. I received the package as part of a product launch earlier this fall and we were eager to discover more about Jennifer.
We have uncovered some truths in Jen’s lineage of late, we knew her natural history had a British connection, but we knew nothing of her medical past. 23 And Me promises a comprehensive analysis of your DNA providing links to medical risks, predictions as to your behaviour, your genetic history, and a portion of the site where you can connect with people who are likely to be genetic relatives.
The process is simple. Spit in a vial, seal it up, mail it off, wait. That’s it.
We had Jen’s results via email in about 5 weeks (they promise 6-8). The DNA family tree arrived first explaining her genetic history. There is detailed science in here with proper names for genes and if you understand that kind of chemistry, you can dig deeper, but things are also laid out simply for those of us who just want the numbers and names.
Jennifer’s DNA is mostly British and Irish, with a bit of Scandinavian, and Neanderthal. Yes, a portion of her DNA is unchanged from pre-historic times. Pretty cool.
The second email we received dug deeper into Jennifer’s personal genetics and medical background.
We found out she had a 10% chance of being blonde, she carries a red haired gene, and was likely to have long fingers.
We found out if her eyes weren’t brown, they’d have been blue, and her babies were likely to be average to slightly underweight.
Her genetics predicted her average height and weight and went on to say that a diet with monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts) would be beneficial.
Then there’s the dark side of the test. The one that predicts which illnesses you carry genes for.
If you don’t want to know, the results are locked off by default. You have to double click to get your risk factors and when we clicked on it we found out Jennifer has a 68% chance of getting Alzheimer’s by the time she’s 85. She also carries genes that show she is more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer during her lifetime. Parkinson’s is also a more than average possibility.
Because she’s adopted, whenever I start digging in to Jennifer’s unknown past, she calls it a Pandora’s Box. You open it and you can’t look back. She’s happy with who she is and how she was raised, but this peek into history filled in some curious blanks.
My review of 23 And Me: it’s very cool, but you have to ask yourself how much you want to know and what you’ll do with the information once you know it.
When Angelina Jolie looked in to her family history and saw the breast cancer gene present that took the life of her mother, she immediately underwent a preventative double mastectomy. Jennifer isn’t that extreme in her reception to the knowledge. When presented with the evidence, she shrugged, and returned to preparing dinner.
We all have to die someday, somehow, some way – right?
The 23 And Me kit costs $199 and while I know my family tree branches to Scotland and Ireland via my maternal great grandparents, and stays in Canada for more than a century on my father’s side, I’m curious about the medical history.
The reason I’m going to be getting a kit? Misophonia.
I’ve claimed to having misophonia in the past. It’s a disease where the sound of people chewing is irrationally irritable to the victim. My wife thinks I’m full of it, that it’s ‘all in my head’ and yet, when we looked up her results we found out that 23 And Me tests for misophonia because it’s a genetic disorder.
Disclosure: I received one complimentary kit from 23 And Me.