Curiosity. The desire to be informed and healthier. The need to know ourselves and our histories better. Whatever your reason is for joining 23andMe, we make it pretty simple. Order a kit, create an account, spit in a tube, and mail it back. In just a few weeks, you log on to the website and learn what your DNA says about your health, ancestry, and traits. But how do we get all of that information from just a little bit of spit?
A lot goes on at the lab to turn the contents of that tube into the genetic data you see on the screen. Technicians inspect your tube to check for obvious problems like leaks. Then they extract the DNA out of cells in the saliva and make sure there’s enough DNA to analyze. (If there isn’t, you’re given another kit to spit again.) Once the DNA is out, it’s broken up and “amplified” — a little bit of DNA becomes a lot of DNA. That DNA is then spread onto a custom chip that allows us to read out your genetic data at hundreds of thousands of places in the genome, places that contain information about our health and ancestry.
For a behind the scenes look at what happens at the lab, check out our video: