Finding Out Who I Am: A look into my DNA

The 23 and Me Testing Kit (Photo courtesy of James Hadfield)

Earlier this month I submitted a sample of saliva to the genomics and biotechnology company called 23 and Me. The company, founded by the wife of Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, allows individuals to get a portion of their genome decoded and they give some health and ancestral information. Only around 1 million of the 3 billion base pairs are read by the company and based on this, the report shows people their genetic predisposition to some diseases and other traits. I haven’t explored this part yet and will do in the coming weeks.

I was really interested in the ancestry part of their services. I am adopted and have found my biological mother and know a bit about my heritage, but it was really amazing to see in detail the percentages. It was also awesome to think about how humans came out of Africa and some of my DNA sequences are the same as the Neanderthals and the cavemen who painted those beautiful drawings in France.

Humanity is just in the beginning stages of understanding our genome and I hope I live long enough to see the advances in the field. It would be a great field to go into if I was younger. I am not sure how accurate the results are given that only a small portion of my DNA was decoded. The “speculative” read of my DNA was as follows:

Overall, I am 99.3 % European ancestry. The breakdown of this European DNA reads:

  • 38.6 % Eastern/Northern European
  • 19.1 % French/German
  • 12.7% Non-specific Northern European
  • 8.4% Balkan (yea Serbia!!!!)
  • 1.2% Iberian
  • 1.1% Italian
  • 7.9 % Non-specific Southern European
  • 9.6% Non-specific European

There are too many “non-specifics” for my liking and I am not sure how they arrived at this. Is it because they didn’t read enough of my DNA? Could it be that because Europeans interbred so often, that to distinguish between countries, or groups is difficult? Living in Serbia and being of Slavic origin, I always wondered if I had some Balkan blood in me, and yes indeed I do. The 0.7% of non-European DNA was defined as Middle Eastern/Northern Africa.

The company is also crowd sourcing DNA for its mega database to find insights into the human genome. I gladly contributed to this and with the 300,000 other people who have done this also, wish them luck in their research. The company also matches genetic relatives, known and unknown from the database. I found I have a second cousin who also submitted a saliva sample. There were a bunch of third to sixth cousins. Out of respect to my biological mother, I probably won’t look them up.

Another part of the company are collecting health and ancestry surveys from the participants. With this they can get more specific regarding country origins. The top two countries for me were Poland and Slovakia, which matches what my biological family has told me. Other countries earning percentages were Russia, the Ukraine, Estonia, Romania, and strangely, El Salvador and Cuba.

I am 2.8% related to Neanderthals, and the average European is 2.7%. That puts me in the 72 percentile. Very odd to think that humans bred with Neanderthals and we still carry some Neanderthal DNA with us today.

In tracing my maternal and paternal DNA lines, on my mother’s side I am Haplogroup H, which is typical of Europeans, and found in the Basque and Scandinavian populations. On my father’s side, I am the R1b1b2a1a, which comes from the fringes of the North Sea and over 50% of European men possess this group. Sharing the same paternal line is the media sociologist and author, Malcolm Gladwell.

I will be blogging more about this as I delve into the reports on the web site.