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- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
By nature, Black Friday is a day that’s very much about materialism. Consumers flood stores and online sites in search of deals on tech, men’s fashion, women’s fashion, mattresses, and more. But if you’d prefer to spend your money on experiences or learning opportunities, a DNA kit might be the perfect way to do so.
If you’ve ever been interested in understanding more about your ancestry or family history, right now is the best time to get a DNA kit as many of the best ones are discounted for Black Friday. (Might we add, they also make great holiday gifts for friends and family!)
Brands like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and Vitagene all make easy-to-use at-home kits that can provide results in a matter of weeks. In addition to your family history, certain kits can assess your health, provide useful insight to improve your fitness, or track down historical relatives.
While many tests unveil similar data, there are key differences between each one. Check them out below and compare deal prices.
Looking for more deals? We’ve rounded up the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on the internet.
$49 (Originally $99) [You save $50]
With over 1 billion family connections, AncestryDNA is the best-selling DNA test you can buy. The service helps you discover the people and places that made you who you are by tapping into 350 regions across the world – two times more than the next leading competitor.
The current price is the lowest it’s ever been (and possibly ever will be).
$99.99 (Originally $199), available on Amazon [You save $99.01]
Save up to $70 on DNA kits at 23andme.com.
The 23andMe kit is one of the most in-depth at-home DNA tests you can take. Not only will it break down your ancestry, but it will also discover your genetic health risks for diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, carrier traits for diseases like Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell, report on your wellness with details like sleep patterns and lactose intolerance, and other genetic traits. If you’re only interested in learning your ancestry you can buy the genetics kit for half off.
National Geographic Geno 2.0
$55.99 (Originally $99.99), available on Amazon [You save $44]
The National Geographic Geno 2.0 Next Generation provides a breakdown of your regional ancestry by percentage, going back as 500,000 years. Once your DNA sample is submitted and processed, you can access the data via the Geno 2.0 smartphone app, where an easy-to-understand video walks you through your ancestry. You’ll learn about which historical relatives you could be related to.
$49 (Originally $75), available on Amazon [You save $26]
MyHeritage DNA is one of the easiest DNA tests to complete. Unlike other tests that require several vials of saliva, this test can be completed in two minutes with a simple cheek swab. With a huge database of DNA Matches, the test pulls data from 42 regions. Once your results are in, you’ll learn about your ancestry and potential family members you’ve never met.
Family Tree DNA
- Family Tree DNA
$49.99 (Originally $79), available on Amazon [You save $29.01]
Family Tree DNA offers an in-depth genetic analysis of your genetic makeup by regions as well as your lineage over time. It is also is one of the best tests for finding and connecting with distant relatives. The Family Matching System pairs other users with similar genetic make-up, so if you’re looking for a long lost sibling, there’s a decent chance you’ll find them here.
$99.99 (Originally $259.99), available on Amazon [You save $160]
If you’re interested in learning about your DNA to better improve your health, the Helix DNAFit kit is the way to go. In addition to your ancestry, this test provides fitness and nutritional insight, so that your workouts and diet best fit your genetic makeup. It will also unveil injury predispositions. Originally priced at $300, you won’t find a better deal on any other day of the year.
$57.95 (Originally $99) [You save $41.05]
Vitagene is another great test for learning about your ancestry as well as your health. The easy two-minute saliva test is processed in four to six weeks (which is a lot quicker than most other tests), and you’ll get a full breakdown of your ethnic mix and global ancestry. The health insight comes as a diet plan, fitness plan, and personalized vitamin plan tailored to your DNA.
- Yulia Mayorova/Shutterstock
- Genealogy and DNA site Ancestry once partnered with Google’s stealthy life-extension spinoff, a company called Calico, to study the genetics of longevity.
- The new study suggests that our genes play less of a role in how long we live than previously believed.
- Instead, traits and behaviors that include everything from diet and exercise to friendliness appear to play a strong role in longevity.
- But surprisingly, we still pass these traits on through generations – mostly by picking partners who look and act like us, the researchers suggest.
The road to achieving a long life is littered with hype. The usual life-extension suspects include pricey pills and supplements; the peculiar involve infusions of young blood and chambers pumped with sub-zero temperatures.
Then there’s science. And one scientific factor that has long been presumed to dictate much of how long we live is our DNA. For decades, it was assumed that the genes we inherit from our parents explain anywhere from 15% to 30% of the variations in longevity that are observed between people.
But a new study that came from quiet collaboration between genetics company Ancestry and a Google life-extension spinoff called Calico suggests that our genes play less of a role in our lifespan than we thought.
Instead, traits and behaviors that include everything from diet and exercise to friendliness appears to play a strong role in longevity. Surprisingly, we still pass these traits on through generations – mostly by picking partners who look and act like us, the researchers report.
In essence, the findings suggest that people effectively transfer longevity from one generation to the next much in the same way that wealth and socioeconomic status are passed from parents to children: by choosing partners with attitudes and attributes that mirror our own, regardless of how different their DNA may be.
Picking partners who act and think like us
- seyfettin dincturk / Unsplash
For decades, researchers studying longevity and genetics had estimated that the genes we inherit from our parents play a significant role in determining how long we live. Previous studies suggested that genes account for as much as 30% of the total variability in lifespan between individuals.
But the new study from Ancestry and Calico indicates that our DNA may be much less important in determining longevity than traits and behaviors like diet, exercise, and personality. After looking at data from more than 54 million family trees and the birth and death information for over 400 million individuals, the researchers concluded that our DNA accounts for less than 10% of lifespan variability.
Instead, we pass on longevity through generations by choosing partners whose attitudes and attributes look much like our own. In research parlance, that’s known as “assortative mating.”
“The true heritability of human longevity for birth cohorts across the 1800s and early 1900s was well below 10%, and … has been generally overestimated due to the effect of assortative mating,” the scientists wrote.
Put another way, we tend to pick partners with attitudes and attributes – from eating and exercising to friendliness – that mirror our own. And as a result, we tend to live similar amounts of time, and have children who do as well.
How friendly we are and how often we work out may play a stronger role in our longevity than our DNA
Previous studies shed light on how important lifestyle factors are when it comes to how long we live. In a recent study published in the journal Circulation, for example, scientists pinpointed five lifestyle factors that appear to be linked with a significantly longer lifespan, judging by the outcomes of two long-term studies that involved about 123,000 adults.
People in the study who lived long lives tended to:
- Do at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise every day.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet.
- Never smoke.
- Stick to a healthy body weight.
- Drink no more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages a day.
As part of several other recent studies, scientists have uncovered a handful of personality traits that also appear to be strongly linked to longer-than-average lives. They include:
Taken together, the findings suggest that how long we live may be less a matter of what we’re born with than the circumstances in which we live and the choices that we make. Those choices, as the Ancestry and Google researchers acknowledge in their new paper, tend to be based on everything from social status to wealth and then, just like genetics, passed on from one generation to the next.
- Hollis Johnson
Perhaps you didn’t intend for that spit sample you shipped off to be used for research on antacids. But that could be what happens with some of the data that genetics-testing companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix have collected from billions of customers and stored in their databases.
Both Ancestry and 23andMe have a history of sharing anonymized consumer data with private companies, also known as “third parties.” Last week, 23andMe took that policy to a new level when it announced a plan to share the genetic data of millions of consumers with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to help the company develop new drugs.
23andMe also collaborates with handful of other drug companies and with institutions like P&G Beauty, the company behind Pantene shampoo and the antacid Pepto-Bismol.
Helix, the genetics-testing company spun out of Illumina, has partnerships with roughly 25 companies as well.
Here are the private companies that the biggest genetics-testing companies share data with
Apart from its partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, 23andMe has active partnerships with at least four other large pharmaceutical companies: Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Biogen, Pfizer, and Genentech.
Another 23andMe collaborator is P&G Beauty, the company behind products like Crest toothpaste, Ivory soap, and Bounty paper towels. In addition to these private partners, 23andMe shares its data with several public academic institutions and nonprofit research groups like the University of Chicago.
Ancestry, which maintains a 5-million-person consumer database of genetic information, once partnered with Google’s stealthy life-extension spinoff Calico to study aging. But a company spokesperson told Business Insider that Ancestry is currently only partnered with universities and research institutions. These include the University of Utah and the American Society of Human Genetics.
Helix has active partnerships with about 25 companies, according to Justin Kao, Helix’s co-founder and senior vice president of business development. Kao told Business Insider that the list includes at-home lab testing startup EverlyWell and healthcare provider Geisinger Health.
But unlike Ancestry or 23andMe, which have shared the data of millions of anonymized customers with private companies, Helix does so only when the user consents via one of those company partners. EverlyWell, for example, uses Helix’s technology to offer customers at-home DNA tests for food sensitivity and metabolism, while National Geographic uses Helix for its genealogy tests. Those companies may prompt a user to opt into research that they are doing, and only then would their data be shared.
Why genetics testing companies share your data with third parties
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
A big reason genetics-testing companies share data with third parties is for research. Many scientists want to learn more about the genetic roots of various conditions and diseases in the hope that this information will lead to better treatments or even cures. Both nonprofit academic institutions and drug companies are doing this kind of work.
“We all have some disease or health issue that we care about. 23andMe has created a research platform to enable interested customers to participate in research – to not wait for solutions to appear, but for people to come together and make discoveries happen,” 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki wrote in a letter to customers after the deal with GlaxoSmithKline was announced. 23andMe did not respond to a request for further comment.
The average customer who chooses to let 23andMe share their data for research contributes to more than 230 studies on topics including asthma, lupus, and Parkinson’s disease, the company says.
Similarly, Ancestry’s partnership with Google’s Calico was aimed at studying the genetics of longevity, though neither company has yet published any research that resulted from the collaboration.
How to choose what data you share – or delete it altogether
When you register your spit sample with Ancestry, 23andMe, or Helix, you’re offered choices about whether you want to share your data, when, and with whom. However, privacy advocates have pointed out that these options can often be confusing.
Plus, when asking customers whether they agree to share their data with third parties, Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix all use different language to describe the choices and present the option at a different stages in the sign-up process. That can make wiping your data from any of those platforms difficult and time-consuming.
Furthermore, if a leak or hack were to happen, such incidents could allow your data to find its way elsewhere, perhaps without your knowledge.
It may also be difficult to prevent your data from being used by a new collaborator who wasn’t partnered with one of these companies when you initially signed up.
Through 23andMe’s 4-year partnership with GSK, for example, GSK gets anonymized summaries of data from customers who’ve opted to share their data for research. Privacy advocates find that vexing because the data of existing customers who may have previously opted into sharing their data could now be included as part of the larger base of data shared with GSK.
“The very setup of this venture suggests that its initiators are not quite serious about 23andMe’s customers’ informed consent,” Udo Schuklenk, a professor of bioethics at Queen’s University, told Business Insider via email.
It’s not easy to delete your information from genetics-testing platforms after you’ve signed up. (If you want to delete your genetic data from one of these sites, check out our guide). If you’ve opted to share your data for research, 23andMe could keep your physical spit sample – and the genetic data gleaned from it – for up to a decade.
- Hollis Johnson
- Genetics testing company 23andMe made headlines last week when it announced it would share consumers’ anonymized genetic data with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
- Companies like 23andMe frequently share customer DNA data with other institutions, also known as “third parties.”
- Ancestry, another popular company like 23andMe, had a partnership with Google’s stealthy life extension spinoff Calico to study the genetics of longevity. That partnership has now ended.
As is often the case in the world of scientific research partnerships, almost as quickly as a new deal begins, another ends.
Popular spit-in-a-tube genetics-testing company 23andMe made a splash last week when it announced a plan to share the anonymized genetic data of millions of consumers with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to help the company develop new drugs.
Ancestry, which maintains a database of genetic information built on the spit samples of more than 5 million consumers, had been partnering with Google’s stealthy life extension spinoff Calico to study aging and longevity. The agreement, which was finalized almost exactly three years ago, recently ended, an Ancestry spokesperson told Business Insider.
Apart from a 2015 press release announcing the agreement, neither company has said much about what the research partnership did.
Genetic testing companies frequently share customer DNA data with other institutions. These can include public research groups like state universities or private drug makers like GSK.
Looking at genetic data for clues to a long life
Calico was ostensibly interested in sorting through Ancestry’s treasure trove of genetic data to identify commonalities among people who live a long time. Data on individuals who live longer-than-expected lives compared to their shorter-lived family members might be especially useful. This could reveal common genetic traits among those longer-lived folks that might play a role in helping them outlast their peers.
“The Calico science team decided, what if we used a data set like what Ancestry.com has to identify people who have a longer-than-expected lifespan in their family?” Ken Chahine, the senior vice president and general manager of Ancestry, told Business Insider back in 2015.
Since then, neither company has published any research from the collaboration, but that doesn’t mean none was produced, someone familiar with Calico’s work told Business Insider.
“Ancestry previously had a relationship with Calico which focused on understanding human longevity and developing ways that all of us can lead longer and healthier lives,” an Ancestry spokesperson told Business Insider, adding, “This relationship has now ended.”
According to Calico, some of the results of its research with Ancestry will be published in a peer-reviewed journal soon.
Ancestry can share your anonymized genetic data with third parties like Calico if you opt-in to what the company calls an “informed consent to research.” This option comes up after you submit your spit sample during the online registration process. (If you decline the opt-in, your data will not be shared with third parties, the company says.)
Those third party groups can include for-profit private companies like Calico as well as nonprofit research groups like the University of Utah and the American Society of Human Genetics – both of which still have active partnerships with Ancestry.
How to delete your DNA data
If you choose to share your genetic data with a company like Ancestry or 23andMe, it can be a difficult decision to undo. Once you opt-in, the company will not wipe your genetic information from any “active or completed research projects,” according to its latest privacy statement.
However, if you’d like to stop your DNA data from being used for new research, you can.
Use the navigation bar at the top of the homepage to select “DNA.” On the page with your name at the top, scroll to the upper right corner, select “settings,” then go to “delete test results” on the column on the right side. Doing this will result in Ancestry deleting the following within 30 days: “All genetic information, including any derivative genetic information (ethnicity estimates, genetic relative matches, etc.) from our production, development, analytics, and research systems.”
If you want to take the additional step of having the company discard your physical spit sample, you must call member services.
- John Moore/Getty Images
- On Thursday, congressional representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) talked to 23andMe about possibility of using genetic testing to help reunite families separated at the border.
- The next day, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki tweeted that the company had offered to “donate kits and resources to do the genetic testing to help reconnect children with their parents.”
- A 23andMe representative told Business Insider on Friday that the company is currently working on a plan, but details have not yet been finalized.
- There are several issues with tracking down family members via DNA testing, most of which involve privacy concerns.
The Trump administration has vowed to reunite the more than 2,300 migrant children and parents who’ve been forcibly separated as the result of the “zero-tolerance” policy enacted by the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.
But the logistical challenges of bringing families back together are only beginning to emerge. Because the cases of parents and children have been handled by separate agencies – and some parents have already been deported – reuniting kids with their parents is a dauntingly difficult and complex task.
Members of Congress are searching for potential solutions. On Thursday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) talked to 23andMe about the possibility of using genetic testing to help reunite families, BuzzFeed News reported.
The next day, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki tweeted that the company had offered to donate some of its spit-in-a-tube DNA-testing kits, along with “resources to do the genetic testing,” to help families reconnect.
A 23andMe representative confirmed to Business Insider that the company is working on a plan for this, although “program details haven’t been finalized.”
To use DNA testing for this purpose, people would have to carefully collect spit samples, then send them to a certified lab to be tested and submitted to 23andMe’s database. It’s unclear what would happen after that, or what a system that uses genetic data to match these separated families might look like.
“We are waiting to see the best way to follow up and make it happen,” Wojcicki wrote in her tweet.
- Consumer genetics tests like 23andMe’s require you to submit samples of saliva.
- Hollis Johnson
Some experts have criticized the effort as unnecessary, however, suggesting that spreadsheets and photographs might be easier tools to accomplish the same goal.
“I find it astounding – astounding – that these families would have been separated in such a way that DNA would be required to reunite them,” Tom May, a professor of bioethics at the Hudson Alpha Insitute for Biotechnology, told Business Insider.
If genetics tests do wind up being used for this purpose, consumer privacy concerns may arise.
Once genetic data has been submitted to a database like those kept by 23andMe, Ancestry, or one of the other myriad companies providing these services, it is difficult and in some cases virtually impossible to delete. Some experts fear the data can be hacked, used in a discriminatory manner by insurance companies or employers, or used to locate other family members without their consent.
That is one of privacy experts’ main concerns about genetic data in general: that people beyond the individuals who choose to do a genetic test could be affected by its results. In the case of the Golden State Killer, for example, the suspect was tracked down using samples that a relative submitted to public genealogy database GEDmatch.
“You might be informed about the risks of doing a test like this, but other people might not,” May said.
Importantly, 23andMe is a private database, not a public one like GEDmatch. But private data was hacked last month at DNA testing and genealogy site MyHeritage, compromising the data of 92 million users.
May said that although he believes 23andMe’s offer to help unite families is well-intentioned, he hopes some ground rules will be established before the company gets involved.
“I think it would behoove [them] to supplement their good intentions by taking steps to make sure this travesty is not being used as a surreptitious way for authorities to enter individuals’ genetic information into a law-enforcement database,” May said. “I hope, therefore, that it is 23andMe’s intention to destroy this information after its use for this discrete purpose of reunification, and refuse to enter this into a database.”