Counting Chromosomes
A blog of random musings on genealogy, genetics, science, and history

Our objective is to understand the goals people have in seeking out genetic testing, and the impact of receiving the results.
     —Dr. Anita DeLongis
        Director, Centre for Health and Coping Studies
        The University of British Columbia

Update 27 Sep 2019 — As of today, the scope of the UBC study has opened to those who have taken an at-home DNA test in the past. Participation by new test-takers is still encouraged, but all who have taken any popular direct-to-consumer DNA test are now welcome.

UBC Vancouver
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus. Click image for different view.

Are you planning to purchase, or have recently purchased, a direct-to-consumer DNA test? The University of British Columbia recently reached out to me seeking participants in a new study. It's free, completely confidential, and consists of two easy surveys.

You can learn more, and begin your participation, at this link to the study at the UBC website.

To date, over 27 million people have taken direct-to-consumer DNA tests, and the reasons for doing so are varied and multifaceted. My first at-home cheek-swab was in 2002 as part of a yDNA study being conducted at Washington State University. That rekindled a background in the biological sciences that had lain dormant for a number of years. Subsequently, I have had my DNA tested—in either new tests or upgrades—a total of 18 times and am currently awaiting the results of a 30X Whole Genome Sequencing.

My motivations for testing, and what I've gleaned from it, are almost certainly different than yours. In fact, there's likely enough nuance in the individual intent/result spectrum that few of us may have identical experiences.

There is a great interest today in direct-to-consumer genetic testing. We have heard from many people about results that surprised and delighted them, as well as from others whose DNA revealed family secrets that caused distress. Our objective is to understand the goals people have in seeking out genetic testing, and the impact receiving results has on individuals and their families. We want to engage with people as they move through the process of deciding to submit their DNA, through to how they feel when they get their results, to the impact when they share their results with friends and family. Participating in our study is completely confidential, and results will only be shared with the scientific community and the public in aggregate, only in groupings of participants. We never share findings about a particular individual.
     —Dr. Anita DeLongis

In the span of little more than two decades, DNA testing technologies have gone from tedious sequencing of only handfuls of genetic markers, to USD$59 tests that look at over 670,000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphism), to what will be, I believe, the dawning of low-cost whole genome sequencing by or before 2023.

The applications today include far-more-accurate sequencing of ancient remains, helping the disciplines of archeology, anthropology, and genetics meld together to help us better understand the history of our species; a tool for genealogy unlike any other, helping reveal information that the documentary paper-trail lacks, or even obfuscates; and continually-improving insights into the effects of genetics and epigenetics on our health and wellness.

As one of the world's top research universities, for more than a century the University of British Columbia has created positive change in Canada and abroad. Today, centered on two major campuses—the Vancouver Campus and the Okanagan Campus—it attracts more than 58,000 students from Canada and 140 countries. UBC is consistently ranked among the 40 best universities globally, and now places among the top 20 public universities in the world.

To learn about and participate in this study directed by Dr. DeLongis, visit the study's website at the Vancouver Campus of the University of British Columbia.