The 23andMe Personal Genome Service offers information about customers’ maternal and paternal ancestry by examining their mitochondrial DNA (which we all inherit from our mothers) and the Y chromosome (which is passed by fathers to their sons).
Over our species’ history new genetic variations have arisen spontaneously in those pieces of DNA, and been passed down through the generations. So researchers know that every person alive today who has a particular variation – say a T instead of a G at a certain spot on the mtDNA – is descended from a single common ancestor. By sampling people from around the world, scientists have been able to assemble “family trees” that trace all the way back to the dawn of the human species in eastern Africa more than 100,000 years ago. Those trees are the basis of the haplogroup assignments we give our customers. Each haplogroup represents a particular branch – and therefore a unique sequence of SNPs.
Now you can see exactly which SNPs we use to generate the 23andMe mitochondrial and Y chromosome haplogroup trees, using a feature we’ve developed called the Haplogroup Tree Mutation Mapper. This isn’t the kind of information everyone would necessarily want, but a number of customers who are especially interested in genetic genealogy have requested it. It can be used to compare our haplogroup assignments to those obtained elsewhere, for example.
The Haplogroup Tree Mutation Mapper is the first arrival in 23andMe Labs, our new technology sandbox where we will showcase experimental features not currently available in our Personal Genome Serviceâ„¢. These features may still be in development, require specialized knowledge or be of interest only to a subset of our customers. Each lab will have its own community so customers can compare notes, ask questions and share ideas.
Some labs will be requested by customers. In fact, we welcome your suggestions. Others will be dreamed up by our scientists.
Finally, you can expect labs to be a little less refined than what’s available within the Personal Genome Service, and somewhat fluid as well. A feature could be discontinued at any time, or it might be elevated to full integration with our Personal Genome Service.
We’re really excited about having this new outlet for our ingenuity, and we hope it will engage some of yours as well!