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What To Do With DNA Raw Data
Updated on October 4, 2022
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What To Do With DNA Raw Data

Some DNA testing companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, and LivingDNA can provide your raw DNA file and test results. There are 5 things you can do with it:

  • You can download your DNA files for future use
  • Upload raw DNA data to other DNA services
  • Have your file analyzed by a geneticist
  • Try to interpret the results yourself
  • Delete your raw DNA from a testing service

Unfortunately, interpreting your own DNA can be challenging. 

We requested the help of Dr. Rizza Mira, our resident medical reviewer at KnowYourDNA, so you’ll know what to do with your raw DNA.

What To Do With DNA Raw Data 2

What Is Raw DNA Data?

If you’ve taken a DNA test, you can access your raw DNA as soon as your results are ready. Here’s a guide on how to download your raw DNA data.

You can download it to a computer, laptop, phone, or tablet. You can also save extra copies on your devices and external storage spaces.

“Raw DNA data is unique to every individual,” Dr. Mira emphasizes.

“Although direct-to-consumer kits allow easy access to one’s DNA data, it is challenging to interpret. This is were third-party interpretation services come in,” she adds.

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What’s Inside Your Raw DNA File?

It depends on the kind of DNA test you take. There are three kinds of raw DNA data:

  • Autosomal DNA
  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
  • Y-chromosome DNA (YDNA)

Expect to see a combination of letters and numbers in your file, which are uniquely arranged based on your genetic makeup. 

Raw Autosomal DNA Data

According to Dr. Mira, autosomal DNAs will show segments of DNA in both genders. Your autosomal raw DNA file contains all genetic markers you tested positive for, including:

  • Reference SNP cluster IDs — rsIDs are numbers that help geneticists identify a person's single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
  • Chromosome location — a number that tells you whether the SNP you tested for is found on the “forward strand” or “reverse strand” of your chromosome.
  • Chromosome position is a series of numbers showing how far along the chromosome an SNP is located.
  • Genotype — two letters that stand for the two nucleotides containing an SNP. They may appear as the letters A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine).

Here is an example of an autosomal DNA sequence: 

rs3931972 | 1 | 742884 | GG 

Raw YDNA & mtDNA Data

Your raw mtDNA will have a list of genes that make up your mitochondrial DNA. A YDNA file will show the genetic variants in your Y chromosome if you're genetically male.

These files include the common names of genetic markers you test positive for. They are listed first and appear short, with just three alphanumeric characters (e.g., F83).

Common names are followed by the alternative names of the same genes. They appear much longer and contain more numbers and letters (e.g., M1185).

Here’s what YDNA and mtDNA sequences may look like: 

F83 | M1185 | PF5861

”Only males can take the tests which utilize YDNA. This is because only males carry the Y trait in their DNAs. On the other hand, women ulitize the mtDNA to trace their mother-line ancestry,” explains Dr. Mira.

Why Should You Download Raw DNA Data?

Once you have a copy of your raw DNA, you can upload it to other genetic testing companies. This allows you to learn more about your ancestry, heritage, and genetic risks.

You get to save hundreds of dollars too. It’s cheaper to upload your raw data files than to take several tests to get more information on your DNA.

Alternatively, you can download your raw DNA and delete it after. This can protect genetic information from data breaches, hacking, or being shared with third parties.

How to Interpret Raw DNA Data

Chances are, you won’t be able to make much sense of your file after downloading it. But there are three things you can do to read your DNA data.

1. Search DNA Sequence Databases

Some DNA databases can be searched manually using keywords. You can input genetic sequences or search for specific values (e.g., genotype) to learn more about them.1 

Genome Browser and Nucleotide are examples of searchable DNA databases. Depending on their available tools, they may or may not let you upload your raw genetic data.

2. Consult A Genetic Professional

You can take your raw DNA file to a medical geneticist. Geneticists can read your data and diagnose any genetic disease or condition you may have.2

Genetic counselors can also read your DNA data. They can give you counseling, refer you to support services, and discuss your treatment options.2

A genetic counselor can help you make better decisions about your health and lower your risk of developing hereditary conditions.

3. Upload Your DNA Data File

Some genetic databases and DNA testing services let you upload your raw DNA. They can handle the cross-referencing needed to “read” your raw genetic information.

They might offer a paid or free analysis of your raw data file. You can get different results or results that are more updated or more accurate than your first test.

You can upload your results to just one company. However, some people upload their raw results to several sites to get the most comprehensive look into their DNA results.

Why Should You Upload Raw Genetic Data?

Uploading your raw data to third parties helps you learn more about your ethnicity, traits, and health risks. The companies you upload it to can interpret it based on the latest DNA research. 

You also have better chances of finding genetic matches or people with similar DNA. They can connect you to lost family members or potential relatives.

Where Can I Upload Raw DNA data?

People who use AncestryDNA and 23andMe will automatically get this service. If you want to learn more, you can read our Ancestry Review and 23andMe Review.

More companies offer raw DNA analysis services like LivingDNA, MyHeritage, Genomelink, and Lifenome.

LivingDNA

LivingDNA is probably the best example of this.

Depending on your data source, 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 possible. 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 ongoing updates if any other matches are made. They also offer the option to contribute your data to research, primarily in genealogy.

MyHeritage DNA

MyHeritage DNA offers a similar service. You’ll get at least 2 or 3 different interpretations of the data from your DNA kit. However, ancestry- and heritage-related results replace health-related analysis.

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

Genomelink is more of a novelty than anything, but it is definitely fun. For no additional charge, it allows you access to 25 traits that your genetics may influence.

Additionally, a subscription service gets you a new weekly report with the latest research to back it up.

Lifenome

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.

What Should You Do With DNA Data?

It depends.

First, understand that knowledge doesn't always mean wellness power. Knowing can be more dangerous than not knowing for some people. 

“It is important to consult with a geneticist to make sense out of the DNA results. They also offer guidance on appropriate steps following diagnosis,” says Dr. Mira.

But the predictions in DNA data aren't always 100 percent accurate. Just because you have a parent or a grandparent with a certain disease doesn't mean it will affect you.

Dr. Mira reminds readers that genetic links to disease are not the only risk factors for acquiring them later in life. 

“The environment, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status also are important for disease development and progression,” she says.

The best thing you can do is evaluate the risk you believe you might have, and determine which lifestyle changes will lower your risk.

23andMe - The best for Health and Diseases

23andMe offers the only health test that’s authorized by the FDA. For this reason alone, 23andMe should be your first choice when searching for a DNA test kit to check for health conditions.

23andMe logo

23andMe - The best for Health and Diseases

23andMe offers the only health test that’s authorized by the FDA. For this reason alone, 23andMe should be your first choice when searching for a DNA test kit to check for health conditions.

Next, find a reputable testing company so you increase the odds you’ll get accurate results.

Your doctor can guide you on what your test results mean. But you want to be sure any analyses are accurate.

Genealogists warn that getting your test results from an unreputable company leads to misdirection and offers no valuable information.

If you want to learn more about your identity or expand your knowledge regarding your health and wellness, you must work with a reliable company. This means choosing a testing service that prioritizes accuracy and has a reliable testing method.

Finally, request to delete your raw DNA once you get your results. Here’s a guide on how to delete your raw DNA data.

Most reputable test companies, including Ancestry.com, allow you to do this and provide detailed information on how they store and use DNA test results. This avoids problems with storage and security and prevents companies from sharing your information with third parties.

Know Your DNA Reviews

The Best DNA Test

Looking for a DNA test that's accurate and can tell you about your health and heritage?

Resources

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  1. DNA databases.” International Society of Genetic Genealogy.
  2. Genetic Counseling FAQ.” National Human Genome Research Institute.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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