Several years ago, I submitted a blood sample to a program called All of Us Research Program.
According to their website, “The goal is to help researchers understand more about why people get sick or stay healthy… People who join will give us information about their health, habits, and what it’s like where they live. By looking for patterns, researchers may learn more about what affects people’s health.”
It was about four years ago now, so I don’t exactly remember how I found out about it, but I remember hearing that one day I may be able to find out details about my own DNA. They were collecting samples at Spectrum downtown, which was close to my work at the time, so it was convenient for me to do.
This research program does give you the option not to get any of your results and you also can pick and choose which results you want to find out about. I felt no pressure to go one way or the other. They also offer support for people that are confused or have questions about their results.
Before you choose to find out about anything, the program has several disclaimers about what you may find out and how that can affect you. Even if you don’t want any details about your DNA results, you are still helping scientists study things that can one day improve the health of another generation. This was the part I was most excited about.
This past week, I got an email saying that I could find out about my genetic ancestry and trait results. After thinking about it for a few days, I decided to take the plunge and find out. Unsurprisingly, my genetic ancestry results showed that I am 88% North/Central European and 11 percent Eastern European. This matched up well with what I knew about my family’s history. Included in the report was a disclaimer I had to click through before finding out my results. It basically explained that I may find something out that does not match what I had been told by my family and that there is a support center if I have questions.
The rest of my genetic traits the report revealed was more just for fun. These included things like whether or not I am genetically predisposed to like cilantro (FYI: I have a higher chance of not liking it than liking it); why I am likely to taste certain bitter compounds; the fact that I am likely to have wet earwax; and that I am unlikely to be lactose intolerant. I am not sure why these are the things they chose to study and release to participants, but it was fun reading how they matched up with what I already knew about myself.
It is wild to think about how far genetic research has come, considering we didn’t really know much until the early 1950s. On the time scale, this really was not that long ago. Now you can even mail in a cheek swab to find out what kind of psychiatric medications your body is likely to respond most successfully to. Absolutely mind-blowing.
As the All of Us Research Program continues, I think I will get even more opportunities to find out more information about aspects of my DNA related to my health. And I’ll make sure to let you know what I learn.