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Types of DNA Testing
Updated on September 13, 2023
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DNA Testing
Types of DNA Testing

DNA testing has many types. They can be classified according to what information the test results provide.

For example, some testing companies offer information about your heritage. They use ancestry DNA testing to identify your blood relatives. 

Other types of DNA testing are also used by law enforcement to solve crimes.

What are some other types of DNA testing and what information do they reveal about you?

Types of DNA Testing 2

Based on the type of DNA being tested

DNA tests can be classified according to the DNA type they’re testing. Most at-home DNA testing companies also use these types to provide information on a person’s ethnicity.

Y-DNA Test

Geneticists mostly use Y-chromosomal DNA testing (Y-DNA) on samples from biological males. Fathers pass down Y-chromosomes to their sons that have been relatively unchanged for generations.1 

Gene experts can use this test to trace or gain information about patrilineal or male line descendants. It can provide information further back than six generations on your direct paternal line. 

Y-DNA testing may help you find relatives on your father’s side. It’s also a good test if you have any questions about paternity.

Y-DNA tests can be limited to biological males. However, a woman can have her close male relatives undergo the test.

mtDNA Test

Mitochondrial DNA testing (mtDNA) can track your matrilineal or mother's female line. Biological fathers don't influence this line.

Mothers pass down mitochondria — or the powerhouse of cells — to their offspring through their egg cells. The mitochondrial DNA doesn’t change much for generations.

Both sons and daughters can inherit it. Unlike the Y-DNA test, everyone can undergo mtDNA tests. 

It helps track down female ancestors that may be missing in historical records because of changing surnames after marriage. 

MtDNA testing reaches further back than the five to six generations and can provide you with your maternal haplogroup. 

A haplogroup refers to individual branches or groups of closely related branches on the world family tree. People belonging to a haplogroup can trace their roots to a single common ancestor.

Autosomal DNA Test

Autosomal DNA testing studies most of the 22 pairs of chromosomes inherited from your parents. It can trace your blood relatives from both paternal and maternal sides.3

Your autosomes hold more information than either Y-DNA or mtDNA. The data they contain can help track your close or even distant relatives.Anyone can take autosomal DNA tests regardless of gender. But your results will not include any information about your haplogroup.

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Based on the results provided

DNA testing companies offer a wide range of tests. When deciding which one to take, think about what you want to get out of it. 

Ancestry Test

Ancestry tests may provide information on where your ancestors might have come from. They can also help you discover your ethnicity.

These tests can help you find your relatives, sometimes as distant as your fourth or fifth cousins. 

People who don't know their ancestry, such as adoptees or descendants of displaced people, can benefit from this DNA testing.

Traits Test

Some major consumer testing companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe offer  additional tests like traits tests to your DNA results.4,5

Traits tests give you insights into the characteristics that make you unique. They explore how your DNA can influence fitness, appearance, and sensory attributes.

However, the results they provide are more like predictions. The traits included in the testing can range from eye color to preferences in taste.

Health Risks Test

Health risks DNA tests analyze how likely you are to develop several health conditions based on environmental factors and gene variants. 

These DNA tests can predict your risk for common types of diseases such as Celiac disease, Alzheimer's, and some type of cancers.6 

However, keep in mind that these predictions are only one part of your risk profile. Your genes are just one of many things that affect your chances of developing illness.

Suppose you're concerned about being at risk for genetic disorders due to your family history. In that case, you may consult a genetic counselor. 

They can better explain DNA testing for genetic conditions.

Paternity-related DNA tests

DNA testing is considered the most accurate testing method available for determining paternity. 

Paternity DNA Test

A paternity DNA test proves the biological connection between a father and a child. In some cases, it can disprove a man's father's status.  

The test compares their DNA samples. Since children inherit half of their genes from their biological fathers, they should have common genetic markers.  

Avuncular DNA Test

A gene expert can run an avuncular or aunt or uncle DNA test between the father's siblings and the child. They can use this test to prove paternity in case the father isn’t available for testing. 

However, the participating siblings should be full brothers or sisters. Full siblings share 50% of their DNA.

The avuncular test result has a 25% shared DNA benchmark between the child and the aunt or uncle to confirm paternity.

Grandparent DNA Test

A grandparent DNA test can replace paternity testing in proving the biological link between an alleged father and a child. 

Testing the biological father's parents can help a DNA company to recreate the father's DNA. They can compare the reconstructed DNA with the child's DNA to confirm paternity.

The test results may be inconclusive if only one grandparent takes the test. For better accuracy, both grandparents should undergo the grandparent DNA test.

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Updated on September 13, 2023
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6 sources cited
Updated on September 13, 2023
  1. Y Chromosome DNA Test.” Genealogy Explained.
  2. Mitochondrial DNA tests.” International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki.
  3. What is Autosomal DNA Testing?” AncestryDNA Learning Hub.
  4. AncestryDNA® Traits.” Ancestry Support.
  5. Let’s talk about Traits.” 23andMe.
  6. What to Know About At-Home DNA Tests for Detecting Cancer Risk.” American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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