February 01, 2006

News from the DNA testing world: DNA Tribes / genebase / DNA Heritage

Competition is great, and there are some new genetics tests on the market. A company called DNA Tribes is offering the CODIS marker set plus interpretation of the results, by comparing them with "300 global populations". The 13 CODIS markers are highly polymorphic and are used in forensics for this purpose. It is not at all clear whether 13 markers (x2, since these are biparentally inherited) suffice to differentiate between different ethnic groups, especially since the CODIS set was designed for individual identification as opposed to population studies.

genebase is another company that I hadn't seen before. Their web site is quite well done. They seem to specialize in Y chromosome testing, offering 20-STR and 44-STR tests. Such tests are usually useful for genealogy purposes, and not for tracing deep ancestral origins which are determined by UEP (unique event polymorphism) tests defining unique phylogenetic clades (haplogroups).

DNA Heritage is an established company which had offered testing of Y-STRs and is now offering a $99 test which determines your fine-resolution haplogroup. If you don't care about genealogy but just want to find out your deep patrilineal ancestry then this test would be quite handy. This is perhaps what the Genographic Project should be offering, since they are supported to study your deep ancestral origins; rather, the GP only performs a 12-STR test from which your haplogroup is predicted. The GP test and the DNA Heritage test have the same price, but the fine resolution test offered by DNA Heritage will give you much clearer information about your deep ancestry, e.g., telling you that you conclusively belong to haplogroup E3b1 vs. a prediction that you belong in haplogroup E3b.

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