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How To Choose The DNA Testing Kit That's Best For You
October 10, 2017 / Tom S.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve come across the idea of a home DNA testing kit before. In fact, it could very well be that you’re looking to buy one for yourself but don’t know where to start. Well, you’re in luck. Here, we’re going to explore just which DNA testing kit is right for you. From looking into what a DNA testing kit actually is, through to which tests are available and some advice on picking the right brand within each category, we’ve pulled together everything you need to know when it comes to choosing the right DNA testing kit..
What Is A DNA Testing Kit?
DNA testing kits are, at their essence, pretty much what they say on the tin. A DNA testing kit – specifically a home testing kit – is a collection of materials that a person can use and then send off to be tested. These tests are a great way to test a range of different things, which we will get into a little bit later. All kits in different categories can come with a range of different equipment or requirements dependant on what they are testing for, though you’ll find that most tests will come with a cheek swab or a saliva sample, or may require a blood sample. In some special cases, DNA on household items can be used (an infidelity test, for example) but this is far less common. To truly understand what a DNA testing kit is comprised of and what it can do, you need to know what kind of test you’re looking for.
The Types Of Testing
The type of test you need ultimately depends on the results that you are searching for – or, in other words, what it is you want the test to find out. From your deep-rooted ethnicities, through to your family tree and even tests for specific genes and the likelihood that you are a carrier of any specific genes that might be related to specific illnesses. Here, we explore four different types of tests that are most commonly used.
Ethnicity
This is perhaps the most common test that people can take, simply because it really can be used by anyone. The appeal of ‘finding out who you truly are’ is one that captures the attention and curiosity of so many people, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. The allure of finding out what your heritage is can certainly be an appealing one, but it’s important to realise that these DNA tests are often estimates based upon genetic information, to the point where different tests could end up with different results.
However, that doesn’t mean in any way that these tests aren’t worthwhile. In fact, the technology behind understanding ethnicity in DNA is constantly improving – it’s just very new. However, the more people that undergo ethnicity DNA tests, the more accurate results will become. The estimates are conducted by comparing your DNA to other reference populations around the world so the more people that provide information, the more information there might be to go off of. Populations have consistently moved from place to place, however, so it’s really no surprise that each test vendor will come back with alternate results – after all, they’re likely to have different reference populations.
Now, before you completely switch off from the idea of an ethnicity DNA breakdown, we have some good news – your results are more likely to be accurate when you look by continents rather than regions. If you just want to know that you’re entirely from Europe, then it’s likely that a DNA test can tell you this pretty confidently. When you go into regional breakdowns, and then potentially further, this is where you might run into inaccuracies or broader estimations, but they’re still likely to provide some level of value.
Adoption and Parental
A DNA test to find out the true parentage of a child – or adult! – is one of the better known DNA tests and is especially popular amongst adoptees in search of birth parents or grandparents, and children with single parentage. Of course, the process with adoptees is different to non-adoptees, but ultimately, the test provides the same information.
If you do happen to be an adoptee, however, you’ll be happy to know that there are more tests that you are open to than just the base DNA test. A technique called ‘mirror trees’ are often used when it comes to children who have been put up for adoption. The adoptee will use the trees of the closest DNA matches they come across to search for any potential similarities in family lines. Of course, this will require a little more information about a person and their heritage than a DNA test can provide. Testing the DNA of the matches, however, could lead to a complete match, for example, and give the adoptee the answers they have been looking for! Or, at least, a stepping stone to get there.
Family Tree/Ancestral Matching
Similar to adoptee DNA testing, Genealogy – or ancestry searching – is another popular form of test. By testing DNA, matches can be provided with other people who have had their DNA tested in the past. Of course, this will depend on a relative having had a DNA test, but with the increasing popularity in testing, this is becoming easier than ever.
There are three types of testing here that those looking into their genealogy could benefit from and they are:
Y DNA – This will test your direct paternal line, but can be used by males only. Mitochondrial DNA – This will test your direct matrilineal line, and can be used by both all genders. Autosomal DNA – This test will test for all lines in your heritage, and can be used by all genders.
If you were to take the autosomal DNA test, the procedure would be much like we discussed above. These tests will bring a combination of ‘trees’. Chromosomes are then used to identify common ancestors, with DNA testing being available to verify and confirm said ancestors.
Genomic Testing
Genomic, or medical testing, is perhaps one of the most helpful types of DNA testing available on the market today – though it is not as popular as the other mentioned tests. It’s not unknown that some people want to know their genetic predispositions to certain medical conditions, while some would rather not know at all. Of course, this is only part of the reason as to why it isn’t quite as popular as the others.
Another reason is because this type of testing is new to the home testing market. ‘Direct to Consumer’ medical information means that these DNA tests can now give people the chance to bypass a doctor or medical professional if they want to know something about their medical risks and features through their DNA and genes. You can find out the estimated risks for the likes of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and beyond, which is unerringly valuable to those who have a history of such an illness in their family. Some of these tests even come with trait reports! These can include cheek dimples, bitter taste perceptions, hair curliness, freckles, photic sneeze reflexes and plenty more.
Some Advice For Picking Your Test
When it comes to actually picking your test, there are a few things you need to take into account when picking the right test for you and your needs – not just by type, but by brand and company too. Here, we’ve taken a look at just a few:
DNA Databases – The DNA database that a company uses is ultimately what will form your results for most tests. If the company doesn’t have a very big database, for example, your results could be inaccurate, or not quite as accurate as they might be if you went to a company who have far more reference entries.
Scientific Credentials – The scientific credentials of the company are also incredibly important. How well known is the company in the world of genetics and DNA? Are the experts well known in the field? Can they prove their credentials?
Service Quality – This is a given for any service you ever come across in your lifetime, but the quality of service is a big factor in the experience that you’ll have with a company. Will they keep your information safe? Is customer support satisfactory? How long do they store your results, and can you access the raw data?
Test Quality – The quality of the actual test is probably the most important factor you need to look into. What technologies do the company use to analyse your data? What method do they use to get your DNA? How many genetic markers do they check?
Legal Test Options – Can the company provide legal testing? This applies most commonly to relationship testing, but it’s still an important factor to consider. Could the company provide you with a viable and legal court document if you need one? At home kits aren’t admissible in court, but some companies can provide the documentation you need to ensure that it is.
Whatever your reasons for DNA testing are, home DNA testing kits can be a good place to start. For those who are curious about their heritage, it provides a simple and cost-effective way to get simple results that they need, while those who are looking more closely for their parentage or even their risk of medical conditions have an easier way to access the testing they need. Choosing the right brand ultimately comes down to what they can offer, and how reliable they are – as with any product. So simply follow the tips we’ve given you above, and you’ll be well on your way to choosing the right DNA test kit no matter what your reason.
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