HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Humans have a natural curiosity to understand where they came from, and unlocking our DNA is easier now than ever with direct to consumer testing.
“DNA testing is growing in popularity in all areas,” said Brianne Kirkpatrick, founder of Watershed DNA.
Kirkpatrick offers genetic counseling on ancestry testing, genetic genealogy, and health.
“There are four main companies right now; 23 and Me, Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and most recently My Heritage got involved,” Kirkpatrick said.
The tests can be ordered online. You will receive a packet in the mail and you either provide a saliva sample or a cheek swab and send it back. In six to 12 weeks, you get your results which can be viewed online after setting up a private account. You will get a breakdown of your ethnicity and some of the companies use that DNA to help connect you with relatives.
“Ancestry is the largest of all of the databases so far. They are expected to have close to five million testers by the end of the year, so five million people in their database,” Kirkpatrick said. “That is by far the largest. The next largest is the 23 and Me database.”
Keep in mind that connecting with others could uncover some unexpected family secrets.
“You may discover a surprise relative that you weren’t aware of. It could be a half sibling, a first cousin, it could be somebody that was placed for adoption in your family and you weren’t aware of,” Kirkpatrick said. “Now, this has been uncovered and what are you going to do with that information?”
There are also some concerns about privacy and security when it comes to your DNA and what these companies can do with the information.
“There is not a lot written into the law about what these companies can and can’t do and what the rights of the consumer are,” said Kirkpatrick. “You have to read the fine print because it is a little different from one company to the next what you are agreeing to.”
If you agree to the fine print, your data could be shared for research purposes or sold to pharmaceutical companies.
“Your name will not be attached to your genomic information, but your information may be put in a big pool of information with other people’s and shared or sold for other purposes,” said Kirkpatrick.
Does that mean your information could be used to make a clone of you?
“The information or data that does get shared about you is not a biological sample, so what the companies do is take the biological sample that contains your DNA and they turn into what is essentially a computer file, so it’s the computerized version of your biological DNA that is being sold,” said Kirkpatrick.
“Would there be a way to somehow turn technological information back into biological information and somehow clone someone? It may be impossible to predict what could be done in the future.”