DNA Testing Kits: What Are They & How to Choose the Best Ones?
DNA testing now can be done easily in the comfort of your own home at an affordable cost. The only problem left is with numerous companies entering the market every year, how to pick the best DNA tests without wasting your time on every review of every company? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!
1. What is DNA testing and who is this for?
DNA testing examines the genetic code that’s carried in every person’s DNA. You can find the code in the cells of any human material, from a drop of saliva to a smear of blood or a strand of hair. It can have a wide range of use cases, from paternity disputes to identify if you’re predisposed to genetic-based diseases, or even find where in the world you came from as well as unknown contemporary relatives.
2. How do I use the kit?
There will be instructions included when you purchase the kit. Usually, you’ll receive a sterile tube or a cheek swab to collect your saliva sample. Then you’ll need to seal it into the sterile package and use the included mailing package to send it back to the company. It takes around 4 to 12 weeks for the company to send you an email with a link to the results online. Some ancestry DNA companies have a dashboard that lets you explore your results.
Do note that not every company offers the same range of reports. Only a few genealogical DNA testing companies include health and wellness reports. Most of them only provide ancestral reports, although some are more detailed than others. There are also cousin matching reports which allow you to find out if you have any matches with other people registered with the same service.
3. What are the types of DNA testing? There are 4 main types of DNA testing:
- Paternity tests: Used to confirm who is the father or mother of a person.
- Genealogy or ancestry tests: Genealogists use these tests to determine ancestral ethnicity and relationships.
- Gene therapy DNA testing: Mostly used by parents to check for inheritable genetic conditions or to identify if an embryo is carrying any birth defects.
- Forensic DNA tests: Police use these at crime scenes in order to identify victims or find criminals.
4. Is the result accurate?
The accuracy depends on the type of test you choose.
- Autosomal DNA tests are less accurate the further back you go, they are only useful for about four or five generations.
- mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) tests, on the other hand, provide precise and accurate ancestry results, but only for the maternal line. They remain nearly identical for 50 generations or more.
- Y-DNA tests are detailed, but can only tell you about your direct paternal line. They also remain reliable for many generations, but not as many as the mtDNA tests.
However, it’s important to set realistic expectations before considering any DNA service. Even though the large database is increasing every day, there are certain questions that DNA testing cannot provide the answers.
5. What about my privacy?
A security breach is totally possible. We suggest you check if the company you choose uses industry-standard safeguards and firewalls or not.
On the top of that, don’t forget to read the company’s Terms of service and Privacy policies, as some might sell your details to medical research facilities or commercial partners without your agreement. Always ask who is doing the testing, what exactly the company does with your details as well as samples, can you delete your genetic information and analysis from the company’s website, and are you able to adjust your privacy settings.