You sent in a sample, explored your results, made some lifestyle changes, and reflected on the experience of genetic testing. There is a lifetime’s worth of information that can be gleaned from a deeper analysis, downloading your raw DNA data opens the doors to discovery.

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Downloading your raw DNA data

A detailed look at how to get your raw DNA data has already been covered in another resource here. There are a few good reasons to download your raw data:

  • Allows you to delete your DNA data from the testing service, for privacy and security
  • Contains an immense amount of data that was not assessed by the testing service
  • Provides a back-up in case the service loses the data or restricts access

Keep in mind; this data may be the most precious and detailed personal data you may ever have access to. It can currently identify you, your family, and your predispositions. In the future, it may have the capacity to provide even more sensitive details that we can’t even imagine. Moreover, your raw DNA data may be ferociously sought-after by insurance companies, law enforcement, and even employers.

This is the primary reason why you may want to delete your data from a testing service in the first place. Keep this in mind when storing or sharing your genetic information with anyone, especially 3rd party analysts. Be particularly cautious with any service that provides free analysis: inspect their privacy and security policies. Also, make sure you can delete your data from their service afterward as well.

What to do with your genetic data

If you open up your raw DNA data file, it won't be much more than numbers, some code and your As, Ts, Gs, and Cs. Firstly, these documents are usually accessible in a table format through Excel or Google Sheets. They also are accessible in a tab-separated orientation that can be read as plain text in Word or Google Docs.

As a quick reference

These truly raw files are only useful for a few things without specific training. You can search directly for a particular variant you’d like to check, to learn your genetic status. This is often the case for rare inherited diseases that are known to impact your family. Additionally, it also allows you to quickly reference your status when reading about new information on exciting variants.

SNPedia

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For those looking to explore, SNPedia is a massive and continuously growing resource for associations between traits or disease, and the underlying genetic variants. However, the website has received criticism for being confusing and making risk seem larger than it is - tread cautiously and be sure to check out their tutorial.

Their front page provides a small list of popular searches, sure to whet your appetite for genomic exploration. Many services, like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, provide their raw data in the form of ‘rsID codes’ that are directly searchable in databases and used as a reference in scientific publications. It allows for easy cross-referencing between different tests and the research used to power them.

For a one-time fee, Promethease removes all the hard work of searching and cross-referencing. It compiles all the relevant variations from SNPedia, centralizing these details into a dashboard for you to review. The interface is still quite technical, with somewhat of a learning curve, but nothing unfamiliar if you’re used to exploring SNPedia.

Try the competitor

A few DNA testing companies offer the ability to use their processing and databases to analyze the raw data from a different service. LivingDNA is probably the best example of this, with the high-level privacy and security policies that are expected of companies that test DNA. Depending on the source of your data, you may not be able to access all of their available resources, like Fatherline and Motherline information.

The real power of uploading to LivingDNA is access to their ‘One Family, One World’ project. This is an effort to make as many connections between humans as they can. Because of this goal, they offer the service for free upon uploading your raw DNA data. You’ll have instant access to DNA connections with suspected relatives in their database. Also, you'll receive on-going updates if any further matches are made. They also offer the option to contribute your data to research, primarily in genealogy.

MyHeritage DNA offers a similar service, giving you the ability to get at least two or three different interpretations of the data from your DNA kit. However, ancestry- and heritage-related results displace health-related analysis.

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Analysis as a service

With the rise of at-home genetic testing, an entire industry has cropped up around the large DNA-kit companies in the field. This is still an incredibly new emergence, and caution should most certainly be exercised when exploring your options. Considering there’s no actual handling of DNA on their part, the policies they have in place may not be as stringent as the big players.

Genomelink

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Genomelink is more of a novelty than anything, but it is definitely fun. For no charge, it allows you access to 25 traits that may be influenced by your genetics. Additionally, a subscription service gets you a new report every week, with the latest research to back it up.

Lifenome

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Lifenome is probably as sophisticated as you can get without consulting a medical professional directly. The company combines AI-powered algorithms with research-backed databases to provide you with unparalleled insight into your genes and how they affect your life. However, it has a price-tag to match, on par with the initial DNA-kit itself.

The story of your raw DNA data is only beginning

The results returned from your DNA-testing service of choice will only be the start of your genetic exploration saga. You don’t need to start right away - your genes won’t change. However, downloading your raw DNA data should be considered earlier, rather than when it’s too late.

Along with the avenues listed above, your genetic information can be incredibly useful to the medical professionals that you already know. Your general practitioner, endocrinologist, oncologist, nutritionist, or dietician may be able to leverage this information to serve you and your health better.

Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.

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