The Sum of My Parts

Standard

neadertalWhen 23andMe.com dropped their price to $99, I decided it was time to dive deep into the depths of my DNA and determine what exactly makes me, me. The service digs into your exome, a subset of your genome, but apparently the hardest working part.

The genes indexed do about 85% of the work in creating a person. It’s where ancestry is determined and it’s where many scientists are looking for genetic relationships to common diseases.  While I was a little scared I might discover I had some incurable genetic dysfunction, the subject of a three-hanky Lifetime movie-of-the week (two if I was lucky), I figured the chance to discover a heretofore unknown element of alien genetic material buried deep within the chemical corners of my self was just too much of a risk to not try.

Good news? No genetic time-bombs. While genes aren’t destiny and 23andMe’s service isn’t quite as in depth as the kind of assay Steve Jobs had to better understand his cancer, outside of a 1/10 chance of developing Macular Degeneration in my eyes, I don’t have any other major ticking timebombs in my genes. Well, at least as far as the test can determine right now. W00t!

There are some markers that show I have good odds to live to be 100 — we’ll see if that comes true — and have a slightly lower than normal chance to get Alzheimer’s (what… what…?). Oh, and I have a marker on one gene that shows I have an increased chance of being fat. You don’t say…

There were slight risk elevations for a few other diseases, but those were offset by reductions in still other areas. Overall, a bit of a wash. No X gene to activate in a moment of stress, unfortunately.

However, I did discover my paternal lineage — where all my dad’s ancestors come from — links back to Doggerland, a landmass that  sunk beneath the waves of the North Sea over 6,000 years ago. And my mother’s haplotype lineage reached back to the twisty, secret sands of the Arabian desert. As a Lovecraft-lover, any linkage to those baroque tales of dread and doom is a cause for celebration. Finding out that I’m part Cthulhu on both sides was a dream-come-true!

Overall, I’m 98% European… and 1.5% Sub-Saharan African and 0.3% Ashkenazi Jew within the last 500 years, which I’m pretty sure means that the white sheet-wearing KKKers in my Southern ancestry were far more hypocritical than than I previously thought.

Another curious discovery?  I’m 0.4% East Asian within the last 500 years. I’m hoping that’ll allow me to apply for citizenship when the Chinese finally take over the world.

And I’m 2.5% Neanderthal DNA. I had some pretty trampy relatives back in the day. (“You! You with the monobrow! You’ll do! Get over here!”)

Genes aren’t fate. But they are the raw material that builds who you are. I’m fascinated about this stuff. At $99 dollars for a life-time of data, it’s pretty cheap for you to be, too.

Guess what everyone is getting for gifts in 2013?