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Monday, January 07, 2013

Me and 23andMe: Healthy Genetic Genealogy

I’ve discussed previously some genetic genealogy that I had done with FamilyTreeDNA, this time I did a test with the company 23andMe. Not only do they do matches with relatives based on over 1million markers but also test for some health traits that may lie within your genes.

In regard to the relative finder test, I didn’t receive any close matches and I actually have far fewer matches with 23andMe than I do with FamilyTreeDNA. So no luck tracing my paternal family there.
What was interesting was the ancestral regions from which my DNA supposedly belongs. It showed 99.5% European DNA with 0.5% unspecified. Given my physical appearance it is hardly surprising although I was surprised that no other ethnicities had even a small imprint on my DNA. Europe was further broken down with the majority belonging to Northern European and of that the regions that had the greatest bearing on my DNA was German, British Isles and France. With my known maternal ancestry this certainly fits, so it is nice to see some accuracy in that respect.

The health analysis is what really drew me to the 23andMe test. While it must be stated that they typically report increased or decreased risk ratios, which do not mean one or the other that you will or won’t get something, it is nice to know some of these in case preventative lifestyle measures can be undertaken to improve your prospects. While I am certainly not going to go into much detail as it really isn’t anybody else’s business, I was quite happy with my results. There was nothing outstanding for me to worry about, in fact it was rather reassuring. Although it doesn’t mean that I will be carefree in my approach to life. All of the factors that I had an increased risk of were well under 2 fold increased risk and therefore not of enormous concern. Some of these I already knew would potentially be on the cards due to other conventional health tests that I have undertaken, so once again a certain degree of accuracy. There were some with decreased risk ratios such as type-2 diabetes. However given that my maternal family has a history of it, and perhaps my paternal side negated that increased risk, I won’t be taking that as a passport to sugar oblivion. I still think I need to be careful. Part of the tests showed that I wasn’t the carrier of many genes associated with certain diseases so it is fantastic to know that I haven’t unwittingly passed something on to my own children. Some of the less scientifically validated linkage analysis, things I would consider fun factorials are good for a bit of a giggle such as I should be able to metabolise caffeine quicker than the average person, although I would say the suggestion that I should be a sprinter would be incorrect.

All in all the relative finder result was disappointing but that is through no fault of 23andMe, I just need people who are closely related to me to take the test. The historical linkage to places of origin even though they can be thousands and thousands of years ago, is nice for someone who only knows where half of my family comes from. This at least gives me some sense of where I am originally descended from. And the health analysis, while it cannot be classed as definitive, was great seeing as though I am missing half of a health history and it allows me to be proactive in lifestyle choices.

Thumbs up.


Anonymous said...

Wow great blog. I have always wondered how people who were donor conceived felt about the issue of donor conception. I realize you are not the voice for all, but it is still very worthwhile to hear your story.

I have always felt it in my bones that purposely creating children that would never know their bio parent was wrong. But when I've expressed this I've been told that love is all that matters or how loving it is that someone would donate or be a surrogate. No one ever seems to think of the child's perspective. They dismiss biology when it comes from the child's point of view, but play it up when it comes to the parents perspective. Why is it so hard to understand?

damianhadams said...

Thankyou for your comment Anonymous. I completely agree, I don't think people ever look at it from the child's perspective, which to me should be the most important perspective as they are the most vulnerable and they have no say.

Anonymous said...

AS someone who is longing to have a family and can not conceive because of my poor egg quality, your perspective is intrigiging, but also confusing. No one ever thinks at 32 years old you are out of the ballgame of conceiving a child. Did the parents that rasied you not love you more than anything? Do you think that families that adopt don't ever look at from the childs perspective? I have agonized over the decision to use donor eggs for the last two years and it always hurts to see donor children that don't feel that the family that did everything possible to have them is enough. I feel no "connection" to my genetic great grandparents just because we share DNA. Heck, I have a brother that is nothing like me and most days I can't stand him. Too make comments that not much though is given about the childs feelings is absurd!!! Its all I think about, cry about, dream about, panic about. I'm guessing you did not have trouble with conceiving your own children. Maybe you would have a different perspective had that been the case. I am in no way discrediting your feelings. Just trying to share from another angle. Thank you for this interesting blog.

damianhadams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
damianhadams said...

Dear Anonymous,
you are making an assumption about the ability of my wife and I to conceive children. The automatic position of those seeking fertility treatments is that if you are in that position you would do anything that is possible to have children including using donor gametes. I can assure you that things were not so easy and that under no circumstances would I have used donated gametes. But that is just my perspective. And yes my parents did love me more than anything, just as I love them. Just because you have no closeness to your brother or great grandparents it does not negate the desires and needs of those deprived of them. You see, that is where you have the choice, but for myself or other DC people we have been deliberately deprived of the choice to love or dislike our next of kin. The other thing is that I have been on both sides of the fence, I used to be happy and proud about being donor conceived, supported it full-heartedly, but when I had children of my own things started unraveling for me. So I do know full well the other perspective. Best wishes for the future.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. So if you were faced with infertilty would you choose to remain childless? Do your feelings now trump all the joy you brought to your parents and them to you? Would you choose adoption? Seems to me that adoptive children have a harder time because someone physically gave them (a created child)up. Thank you for your insight as I wade through this heartwrenching process.

damianhadams said...

Dear Anonymous,
knowing what I know now, if I or my wife was infertile I would definitely not use donated gametes. I'm not sure what you mean by the second question. Would I choose adoption? Hard to know without being in that situation. However there are many similarities between adoption and DC but also some key differences. In DC kinship is deliberately severed while in adoption kinship is severed due to to unfortunate circumstances (no-one sets out to deliberately create a child that will be given up). There are also a range of reasons why a child would be adopted, not all are abondoned or given up, some are orphans. Adoption is a means to try and assist children who already exist that are in an unfortunate circumstance. DC is about children who do not yet exist. From the lessons of adoption we as a society have learnt that in general it is best for children to be raised by their mother and father (there are always exceptions), but there are some instances where the severing of that kinship cannot be avoided and adoption may be a better option than the child being a ward of the state. So there are times when adoption is the better outcome. There are some of us DC people that feel that we too were abondoned by our fathers and even sold away like a commodity (afterall money changes hands).

Unknown said...

The parents did everything in their power to fullful their parental needs as parents. The parents wanted a way to get around their infertility and make a child like a "normal" family. Sperm and egg are potential people, they aren't people. So I'm not sure about the whole "did everything in their power to make them", thats partially confusing. Donned children take on the characteristics of their biological parents (the ones whom you call "donor" in order to ease your emotions) so they aren't you. Despite how you find a donor who looks a lot like you, nothing will ever stray from the fact you simply took children from another woman—and it is she is the birthmother. Donned gametes don't cure fertility, these aren't empty gametes that as full of your DNA and linage, these are simply gametes from another stranger their DNA and their linage. So why are you doing all that you are doing, when you will never truly 'mother' a child (in a traditional sense that you desire)? Why are you creating more motherless children if donned eggs is similar to adoption, when there are enough adoptees in the world that has experienced that without intention?

As for wanted...
We do the same husbandry for 'wanted' cats and dogs who act like surrogate children to many couples around the world. Love is not just saying I love you, giving the kid presents, toys, gifts ect. and promising they were 'wanted' (by the individuals who contracted them, of course) when really the parents wanted to experience pregnancy and pass on their linage, love is sacrifice and consideration. Love is stepping outside yourself and thinking about every aspect of your kids emotional mental and physical being. Love is being a grownup, and saying:

"This may hurt my feelings that I cannot conceive a child, but at least I know that my children will not grow up hurt, lost and confused. At least I know I didn't create children to purposely be separated from their biological parents just to fill my wants as a prospective parent"

That's true love. That is a mom that cares so much for her kids, she put all of her deep emotions aside because she decided the child's wants needs and desires were much much much much much much more important.