Thursday, February 16, 2006

Taking the DNA test UPDATE

Update: As of March 3, 2006, my DNA has been isolated for testing. It has now arrived at the sequencing facilities.

"Family Tree DNA" said the return address label that I found in the mail one day last week. I knew right away that the day of my very first DNA test, at least that I'm aware of, had arrived.

The entire topic of DNA deserves some discussion before I give you the nitty gritty of the test. When one has a test in hand, several thoughts come to mind, even if you are not a suspect in a high profile missing young woman case.

There is one supposition about any test that will provide absolute results: there is no crying in DNA testing. In other words, I have to be ready to accept that I might not be Irish at all. We may be misled by the family lore and they never mention the traveling salesmen in those legends.

Or maybe we came to the USA from Ireland but had just arrived in Ireland say, from Canada. This is our family legend. I hope and expect to find some native American ancestry from the branch of the family tree that diverted to Canada in the very early days of the colonies. This would help us to prove the legend, that documents cannot prove.

Then what other uses might come along for this DNA? Family Tree promises complete confidentiality and in providing to you total control as to any usage of the DNA. They merely store it for future tests that you might want or need.

Second, since we all know promises like this are meant to be broken, lets consider how this could be legally broken. I imagine if I were a suspect in a high-profile missing woman case, a judge could order the company to provide my DNA. So, that's one thing I better not ever be. OK. Then there is the sticky little issue of the Patriot Act. If I happen to get a wrong number phone call from the wrong person say, in Asia, the FBI might be sneaking and peeking through my DNA. Fair enough, the test is important enough to me to risk that wrong number call. Last thing I want is this administration coming after me. I don't want to be looking down Dick Cheney's barrel.

Then the entire idea of the potential of future uses of DNA jumps up right in front of you like a quail in Texas brush. When I was a kid we were just learning about DNA, RNA and genetics. Today we have mapped the genome. How about tomorrow? Maybe, when babies are born, we will be taking a DNA test routinely for several different reasons. The first is that the likelihood of diseases that pass through families will be identified in your DNA. Won't tell you everything but you might know what problems you are most likely to encounter. In some cases this information could be life-saving. Sadly, in other cases it could be devastating. To avoid carrying certain defects to future generations, it would not be out of bounds to identify the carriers of these genes, possibly collect sperm and eggs and "clean" them of this gene, then reintroduce the same DNA through in vitro fertilization.
These simple tests by enough people will revolutionize medical science. It isn't a matter of if, it's only a question of when. So, I decided to push on and take the test.

The Test

I must admit that I have observed a DNA test swab being taken. It was on an episode of "The Closer" on USA and it was a suspect in a high profile missing and murdered woman's case.

Opening the envelope there are papers explained what to do and a return padded envelope. There are also two small vials which are sealed but contain a small amount of a liquid for preserving your DNA. There are two sealed DNA swabs. Simply enough you remove a swab carefully not interjecting any other foreign substances, and you scrape the inside of your cheek for a minute. Like turning your toothbrush around. The tip of the swab gathers cells. The first vial is opened carefully and the swab tip is ejected into it by just a small push on the swab stick.
Then you seal it up. Wait eight hours and repeat the same for vial #2. Oh and you shouldn't eat for an hour before the test and avoid drinking anything hot or cold for that hour. And that's it, the two vials go into the envelope, the DNA is off for testing.
I have received a confirmation that my DNA test kit has arrived and the tests I have ordered will take 4-5 weeks. I can follow it all on a website. Stay tuned for the results. Whatever they might be.....


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