Bioethics for the Future The Future of the Bioethics

Thinking ahead of course requires looking back, what have we learned in the past, which lessons have we not learned, what can contemporary bioethics show us for tomorrow. Read More

Why Autosomal DNA Testing for Ancestry?

The Genomics age is here. And autosomal DNA testing is the best DNA test that science now has to offer. This newer, second-generation science is more complete than genealogy or sex-linked, haplotype DNA testing.

In genealogy, many mistakes can be made. There are many possible blind spots and unverified lines like adoption. It has been estimated that some 10% of the population has an adoption or other non-parenting issue if they go back just as far as their great grandparents. Someone could have changed a surname upon immigration, or a name may have been copied down incorrectly. Perhaps someone copied down a family tree without proper documentation from a Genealogy list. The possibility for errors in one's genealogy increases the further back one goes. I once questioned a genealogy researcher, who had researched one of the surnames in my family tree, about his analysis. His answer was that he made "assumptions" about my genealogy and tied my ancestral line to someone with no proof. I later discovered he published this as people keep writing me wanting to know if they are a cousin because of this "connection." This is common. Genealogy as a whole is fun but often incorrect.

The next step beyond genealogy is a DNA test for ancestry. But not all DNA testing is the same. How is autosomal DNA testing different than haplotype testing? It is based on different science. First- generation DNA testing is limited in several ways. This type of DNA test only follows the genetic ancestral line of your mother or father: your mother, her mother, and her mother all the way back, or the same for your father's line of ancestry. It leaves out the rest of one's ancestry. And only males can take the (paternal) Y-DNA ancestry test, so a female would have to find a male in her immediate family to take this test. Also, this is not unique DNA. Many people might have the same mitochondrial DNA (the maternal line of ancestry) or Y-DNA. It doesn't make one feel too special.

However, autosomal DNA testing is the new wave in science. Based on one's unique genetic code, it reflects all of one's ancestry and anyone can take it. How can that be possible? Autosomal markers are based on nuclear DNA distributed throughout the body. Everyone has nuclear DNA, so females can take this test and discover both sides of their family history. And this type of DNA ancestry testing represents the accumulated inheritance from all of one's ancestry-not one or two lines of ancestry but around 1,000. Why not discover all of your ancestry with autosomal DNA testing?

But, unfortunately, not all "autosomal DNA testing" is really autosomal. If information is given concerning "cousins" this is still based on sex-linked haplotype DNA testing and will not provide the same analysis as a truly comprehensive autosomal DNA test like the one DNA Spectrum has with its Full Spectrum Plus.