science of dna

The Science of DNA

Years ago, DNA testing was only performed by doctors using blood samples. Results from DNA testing was also quite limited with the most common use being in deciding issues of paternity. But today DNA tests can be performed at home and cover a wide area of uses.

In this section we will try to explain some of the basic science behind DNA testing. This will help inform your decision as to whether this is right for you and if it is what you should consider before ordering a kit.


The Basics About DNA

Over the following pages we will help to explain the science behind DNA testing and also home DNA test kits. Home DNA test providers are understandably secretive about the exact algorithms they use for processing results, but there are basic scientific principles that are common to all.

One of the most common factors is that most home DNA testing kits rely on you supplying either a saliva sample or doing a cheek swab. Both are relatively quick and painless. Some DNA test providers own their own labs with all testing done in house. Others use third party lab facilities. Find out here what then happens to your sample once it arrives at the laboratory.

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Advances In DNA Science

The science behind DNA testing is evolving all the time and never so quickly as over the past few years. Originally, home DNA testing was purely about paternity or ancestry. Now you can buy a DNA test kit to find out about food intolerances, how you cope with stress and what diseases you could be susceptible to. Most test providers will ask you if you want to join DNA research groups so that your test provider can use your DNA to conduct more research. 

If you want to ensure that your test results are being assessed with all the latest thinking, it's important to look at the laboratory used by your test provider. Look at the accreditations the laboratory has, we provide you with a breakdown of what all the accreditations actually mean. If you are going to hand your DNA over at least make sure that you will get the most accurate and detailed test results.

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DNA Test Science

When you are researching which test to buy it is important that you understand some of the basic science behind DNA testing. So, for example if you want to learn more about your ancestry it is important that you understand what a Y chromosome test will tell you as opposed to a mitochondria test. In health screening it is important that you understand the difference between full exome sequencing and the more traditional genotyping as this will impact on the number of health reports you get back. 

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The Technology

Not all tests are the same and not every testing laboratory is the same. Do check this out before you select a test provider. It is important to understand what technology is used by your provider and how long they have been operating.  A further aspect to consider is how you get the results and in what format. Many test providers now have the technology to send you all results in a secure format online. A further consideration is what a test provider does with your DNA after testing.

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Testing Methodology

The methodology behind testing does vary between providers and also for the different tests available. For example, if you're looking at paternity testing all test providers will look at the genetic markers of the alleged father compared to that of the child, but some providers insist on also looking at the mothers DNA to ensure accuracy of results. 

For ancestry tests, autosomal testing can be used or alternatively the y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA can be tested. In health screening you will either see genotyping or whole exome sequencing. It is important that you understand the different methodologies as this will impact on the number of reports and details that you get back.

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