Nowadays you see, hear and read a lot about it: DNA tests. About how you can find out your kinship by taking cheek swabs, or find out where your distant ancestors come from. There are even tests available that give you nutritional and dietary advice based on characteristics found in DNA. So what is DNA and how do these tests work exactly?
What is DNA?
DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, is one of the most important building blocks of life. It determines the construction, degradation and building of every cell and can therefore be found in all cell nuclei of humans, animals, plants and fungi. The structure of DNA always consists of a double helix with connections in between, making it look like a spiral staircase. There are four nucleotides in each DNA molecule: adenine A, guanine G, cytosine C and thymine T. These nucleotides always form pairs in the same combinations, an A with a T and a G with a C, and we call these our genes. How these pairs are arranged in the spiral staircase is different for everyone, making DNA a unique personal code. However, they are the same for each individual; whether you are looking at DNA from a cheek swab or from blood.
How does a DNA test work?
Besides DNA testing in hospitals and laboratories, it is also possible to have your DNA tested commercially. This is possible in the field of ancestry, for home dna paternity tests and tests for advice on nutrition, health and career. DNA tests come in different types. They do however, have one thing in common: by taking a sample of cheek swab and sending it to a laboratory, the unique genetic code is read out, after which it is compared with other DNA data in a database. A gene report is drawn up and the results are returned by post or e-mail. When it is necessary to compare data for a good result, such as with ancestry and hereditary disposition, it is important to pay attention to how big the database is that is being compared. Comparing data from a small database will give a less accurate result than comparing with a large database. This does not apply to you when you have searched for a ‘legal dna testing near me’ or something like that by the way. For such a test, only DNA from two people is needed, so no comparison is made with data from others.