Friday, February 11, 2011

23 And You and Me

23, as in chromosomes. I have them, you have them. And the most amazing thing is we can map them and test for genetic markers for everything from the kind of earwax we have to the way we process caffeine.

I remember when the first announcements came to the media and public that we had finally mapped the human genome. I was working for NPR at the time. They had this large roll-out poster stuck to a few cubicles showing the genetic coding of the subject who'd been mapped. I had no idea what any of that meant at the time, just that it was pretty cool and would lead to something shiny in the future of our race.

My dad and I have had ours mapped recently. It amazes me that now, seven years later, anyone can do it.

Got my results back from the good folks at 23andMe just yesterday and have been on a journey of biological self-discovery ever since.

Getting my dad's DNA was more of a gift for him for Christmas. He's into geneology, like, really, really into it. So it was the best gift I could think of short of finding all his ancestors. I figured it might help him make connections with relatives from a sketchy 1800-somethings past involving typhoid fever and orphans. Maybe. Who knows. Then the price was so good at the time I though "why not?" and got mine done at the same time. This affords me to link both my maternal (from mitochondria) and paternal (from my dad's Y chromosome) DNA.

I was afraid there'd be some genetic something scary I'd find...or on the opposite end (you know me and my ego and how that works sometimes) that it would maybe validate that I was genetically superior in some way. Neither is true (although I never have had wisdom teeth...at all). Truth is I am grateful I don't have any genetic disorders or predispositions to terrible diseases or psychopathic problems. I have the genes to live long and healthy as long as I eat right and exercise. I could have had red hair and green eyes, but my DNA chose brown instead. I shouldn't drink too much caffeine, according to my genes (it causes non-fatal heart attacks), and I should be careful with blood thinning meds cuz my blood pressure is low...makes sense. Overall, after reviewing all the diseases and things that could go wrong out there, I'm so grateful for my health. It's not that I'm superior for this. It's that, genetically speaking, I'm pretty normal. I am the way I am because my genes have been naturally selected over a hundred thousand years to make me the way I am. And I'm glad for it.

One other cool thing about getting mapped is that I can trace where my mother's, mother's, mother's...etc, etc came from going back 48,000 years to the Arabian peninsula. It's a haplotype (J1C2) that is believed to have brought agriculture from the Middle East to Europe. That's really cool to have that kind of a connection going back that far to all the women I come from.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Very cool! I've been wanting to do this for a long time and keep hoping someone will buy this for ME for a gift, haha. I've been doing more ancestory research lately too. It's amazing how much easier it is today than just 10 years ago when we were mostly relegated to flipping through dusty documents looking for the needle in the haystack.