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DNA unraveled: New technology makes it easy to find out what you're made of

Updated: Wednesday, October 2 2013, 11:18 AM CDT
Reported by: Kirk Clyatt

HARRISBURG -- Not all medical costs are going up. Imagine the cost of a Ferrari going down to $.30!

That is what has happened to the cost of gentic testing over the past decade.
For many years scientists thought that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals didn't interbred, but CBS 21's Kirk Clyatt -- among millions of other people on the planet -- is living proof that they did. Clyatt has 3.1 percent Neanderthal DNA, which puts him in the 98th percentile of humans.

Dogs have 39, cats have 19, cows have 30, but you and I have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

Your saliva has all it takes to tell your story.

Dr. Emily Drabant, a researcher with "23andMe" told CBS 21, We look at a million points in your DNA and we give you personalized reports about what your DNA says about your health and your ancestry.

The tale is an amazing treasure trove of who you are, including learning how much of a caveman you are.

"You have a high percentage of Neanderthal DNA. It's unclear exactly what that translates into, Drabant told Clyatt. 

Now today's generation can know what previous generations could only wonder about.

Some of what DNA tells you, you may not want to hear. 

In Clyatt's case, "You are at increased risk for of coronary heart disease, which puts you at an increased risk of having a heart attack, Drabant said. 

So knowing your genetic information may be helpful for you, in thinking that you may want to modify your diet, or exercise more to pay attention to your heart health, Drabant. 

More than 300,000 people have used the "23andMe" service and it is starting to have a real scientific impact.

we can take the information about whether they have had a heart attack or thyroid disease and aggregate those over thousands of people and then we can identify new genetic markers, Drabant explained.

Before Clyatt took the test, he had been diagnosed with a thyroid condition and his DNA bore that out -- showing him to have a higher risk for thyroid problems.

People who take the genetic screening test also can learn about how they may respond to many common drugs, but it's not just about your health; people also can get insight into what they may pass along to the next generation.

DNA provies a look at the past, answering the question, where did you come from?

Clyatt was surprised at how European he is, with genetic markers of East Asian or Native American descent. According to Drabant, We can actually tell you, based on DNA, what part of the world that your ancestors came from. People are often surprised, particularly people of mixed ethic ancestry, are surprised to find that even though they are very dark-skinned, they may actually have 25 percent European (or) Caucasian ancestry."

Often people find that they have 400, 500, over 1,000 DNA relatives. In '23andMe,' and we can tell you approximately how related you are, maybe you are second cousins, maybe you are fifth cousins and then you can connect with them if you'd like to learn more about your ancestry, Drabant explained.

It is almost overwhelming the amount of information you get for $100, even your propensity to certain mental health issues. This is an evolving area of science and for some sensitive data -- such as genetic markers for Alzheimer's disease -- '23andMe' does ask participants to confirm that they really want to know the results.

They also advise that if you do have questions about the information, you ask your doctor.DNA unraveled: New technology makes it easy to find out what you're made of


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