Like many people, I’ve sprung for a personal genomics service lately, in my case “23 and me“. There are deeper reasons for doing it, such as finding out anything more about the genetic basis of my health problems and getting my child advance warning if there’s evidence of heritable risks, but curiosity was a big part of the decision. And hey, as a palaeontology fan I want to know how much Neanderthal is in me, because that’s just cool how sexy our two species were together. Well, here’s what I found out! Part of my obligatory “What’s In John’s [X]” series…
Stomach-Churning Rating: 0/10 unless you hate genes, but that’s pretty futile if you do.
First off, let’s explore my evolutionary history within Homo sapiens:
For the benefit of those that don’t want to screen-squint or click to emzoomen, I’m 99.9% European ancestry in terms of modern populations’ genomic similarity. I’m mostly Northern European, with around 3% Southern and <1% Eastern. The <0.1% West African and Native American ancestries (on my chromosomes 6 and 10, I discerned) are just a smidgen, but I’m still happy to hear of them. I like being a mutt, even if mostly (~69%) a British-Irish and French-German mutt. I expected to find a bit more Scandinavian vestiges in my genome than the 0.7%, based on what little I know of my genealogy, but the 25.5% “broadly Northern European” could cover that.
D2’s like to stalk Mammuthus columbi and run from Smilodon fatalis or terror-birds.
Paternal haplogroups (from my freezer-burned, shrivelled little Y chromosome) are fun, too! Especially R1a1a; it’s the hip haplogroup to hang with:
We R1a1a’s enjoy the rich flavour of a Megaloceros giganteus.
All that slaughtering of megafauna and perusing phylogenies was tiring. How about we sing the song of my genome?
Well, modern people are boring, even the migratory ass-kicking Ice Age ones. What going on inside me, and outside of Homo sapien? Check it out:
Chest-thumping caveman dance ensues! This was the result that got me the most excited. I’m worthy of wearing this shirt! 95th percentile, W00T!
(then I found out my wife has more Neanderthal, and I was deflated… no fair! LOLZ.)
So anyway, I’m not just a bland European (not that any human’s ancestry is likely “bland” anyhow). Sweet! The ancestry results alone were interesting enough to make me feel like I got my £125 worth.
How about genetic markers for funky traits?
OK, no booze-flushing reaction or lactose issues, I knew that; bitter or asparagus tastes and smells, sure I knew that; blonde and blue-eyed: check; earwax: eew but kinda neat; sprinty muscles, that makes a lot of sense (I love to sprint; not so much endurance running)… baldness: thanks. Thanks a lot, ancestors! Nice try, curly-haired ur-Hutchinsons, but your coiffured efforts were for naught in my case.
Norovirus: OK I’ll try to avoid youse guys. Duly noted. I’m not a fan of vomiting, despite what my college friends might tell you if asked.
Caffeine “fast metabolizer”– hell yes! No doubt about that. I can take about 1 shot of Espresso in the morning and then I’m done; I’ve become extremely sensitive to caffeine. But the good news for that gene marker is that my alleles “didn’t increase subjects’ heart attack risk” with moderate caffeine intake, and indeed some coffee might even be prophylactic. I don’t intend to test that, though. My days of quaffing a pot of coffee before fraternity parties are long gone.
Overall, the traits stuff was intriguing but held no real surprises. “Subjects averaged 0.3 – 0.7 centimeters shorter than typical height” for one genetic marker is a good example, considering my altitudinally-enhanced morphology, of how genes aren’t necessarily simple determinants of fate.
With trepidation, I turn to genomic markers of my health tendencies:
Not much going on there. But wait… Looking closer…
D’oh. But not a big surprise; my mother died of Alzheimer’s so it was at least 50/50 for me. And still not a fate set in
stone amino acids, but I’m more motivated now to live it up in my youth! There’s genetic destiny, genetic tendency, and then personal choice. I’ll do what I can with the latter.
Gene products can determine how we react to different chemicals, and I take my share, so I was keen to see what 23andme dug up. It was fascinating:
Without boring you with my prescription list, I’m sensitive to several hugely important drugs I take or have taken before. My GP doctor was keen to know this! I feel like this was worth the cost of the genome service to know all these caveats about my metabolism of pharmaceuticals.
So, that’s what I’ve found by rummaging around my genome. I’ve also used the ancestry tools in 23andme to find names of some 4th/5th cousins (who also did the 23andme genome service) around the eastern USA, which is where a lot of my ancestors settled in the 18th-19th centuries, I recall being told.
I don’t feel very worried about abuse of my genomic data by corporations, or other privacy issues related to this. Maybe I should. I feel like having my genome data in my possession, and likely insights 23andme or other services will give me using it in the future, are worth the risks.
If you’ve used a personal genome service of any kind and want to share your tales, go for it in the Comments!