DNA is one of the most complex parts of the human system. It is integral to all of us – it quite literally forms the makeup of our very bodies and selves. Our DNA can help to determine not only our hair color, the structure of our faces but also whether we are more likely or not to suffer from particular diseases.
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Yet, DNA can also tell us who our ancestors are. Passed on for hundreds, thousands and millions of years from our most recent to our most distant relatives, encoded in our DNA is the history of where our family has been.
By analyzing our DNA we can trace our family trees back further than might be thought possible. We can discover relatives whom we never knew existed. DNA allows us to uncover parts of ourselves that we never knew were there.
However, if you are itching to know who your family is you might be wondering – how long does a DNA test take? The answer is that the process of analyzing our DNA can take time because of how complex our DNA is.
Taking The Test
The first and most important step on taking your DNA test journey is to take the test itself.
After your test arrives it is advisable that you wait half an hour before taking it if you have eaten or drunk anything recently.
This is because it is important that your saliva isn’t contaminated when you take the test – you certainly wouldn’t want your DNA result to come back saying you are 100% green bean!
When taking the test, it is crucial that you fill up the DNA test kit with your saliva right up to the marker on the test tube. This ensures that the scientists who will be working on your DNA will have enough to give you a full profile.
Once you have filled the tube with saliva make sure to close the lid properly. This will ensure that your saliva is safe and will not be contaminated on its way to the laboratory.
Make sure that when you are packing your DNA test away to send off that it is properly packaged as well.
This means that you know your DNA test will get to the laboratory safely as, depending on where the DNA processing lab is, your test could be going on a long journey!
The Trip To The Lab
Once you have safely completed your test you can mail it off to your DNA company’s lab.
Due to the amount of people who have become interested in DNA, the postage and processing part of the test is the longest.
Depending on where you are in the world and where your DNA testing facility is, your test can take between a couple of weeks and a couple of months to reach its destination.
Whilst this can feel frustrating, it is important that your DNA test arrives safely. It is better for it to arrive in perfect condition than for it to arrive too quickly and be damaged.
Analyzing The DNA
The next step is the part in which the scientists become involved. Once your DNA test has arrived at the laboratory for processing, it will enter a queue.
At busy times such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, this means your test can be in the queue for longer than during non-holidays so it is important to bear this in mind when ordering your kit.
Once your DNA has reached the front of the queue for analysis then the real work can begin.
First, the DNA is prepared and then extracted from the saliva. This is important because it ensures that a good quantity of DNA is available in order for full analysis. If there is insufficient DNA contained within the sample, then the test cannot go ahead.
Once the DNA has been extracted from the saliva, genotyping can begin. Genotyping is the process by which the DNA is broken down and examined by scientists in order to determine its similarities or differences to other known DNA.
The comparison can be either against an individual or individuals or against a reference sequence.
If there are matches at certain points along the sequences then the scientists can determine familial relationships between individuals or determine the ethnicity of the person who has taken the DNA test.
Getting The Results
Once the scientists have genotyped the DNA it will be further analyzed to ensure that it meets standards of accuracy and reliability.
The DNA will, if they are entering a family DNA database, be computed into the system in order that other users can see that they are connected to someone.
If the DNA test was not for a family tree site, then the person who requested the test will receive their results soon after genotyping.
If the test is for a family tree site then it will take an additional few days for the results to be loaded in the system so you and anyone else you share DNA with can see it.
Receiving your results will be an exciting and experience and one you will surely not forget. It may have seemed like it was a long time between taking your test and getting your results but when you receive them, you’ll be sure to think they are worth it.
It may seem like it has taken a while, but your results will in fact have been processed remarkably quickly compared to the past. The most that you will wait to receive your results will be two months though with non-ancestral DNA tests you may have them within a couple of days.
Whatever your reason for getting your DNA test it will have been worth it. Wrapped within every part of your DNA sequence is a nugget of information about yourself that you would have otherwise not known about.
Humans and DNA have been intertwined for millions of years and now that we can fully understand all its complexities, we will surely become wiser people.