DNA Research: How Can I Get Involved?
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One of the coolest and most fundamental aspects of DNA testing is rarely written about, yet it is the ultimate reason why DNA testing companies are able to exist and thrive. What are we talking about? Research! DNA data, before the advent of high-throughput DNA sequencing technology, was only available for a number of “model” organisms, such as the fruit fly and the nematode. But now, companies like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and MyHeritage use ultra-fast and relatively cheap methods to sequence an individual 's DNA profile in almost no time at all!
While most companies sell their testing kits, that is not the only valuable asset they offer. In fact, their DNA databases are far more valuable than the DNA testing kits they produce. DNA databases can be sold to researchers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies looking to conduct research. The DNA files in these databases have been anonymized and aggregated, meaning your personal information is nowhere to be found.
However, it does leave many users wondering what research is being conducted on their genetic information. Other users wonder if maybe they should be getting paid for contributing their genetic code to science and molecular biology. Well, here at Genomelink, we know where you can find both!
Check out the following companies that allow you to donate or sell your DNA data, and let you know exactly what your DNA data is being used to study!
Put Your Deoxyribonucleic Acid to Work!
Instead of giving you free stuff or a wad of cash, LunaDNA gives you something better: ownership in their company. This is made possible through LunaDNA PBC, or Public Benefit Corporation. The purpose of a public benefit corporation is to act as a non-profit middleman between the public and research organizations. The database gives open access to any researcher they partner with. Check out the graphic below!
Members give their raw data to LunaDNA, the for-profit company, which gives the member shares of the company in exchange. The company loans out your genetic data to researchers, who pay the Luna PBC for access to the data. Depending on what portion of your DNA was used and how many researchers accessed your DNA, Luna PBC then pays you in real money. Plus, you have to consent for your data to be used in research studies, so you will get to actually see what research your data is supporting!
While this looks complicated, it is actually a very innovative way for LunaDNA to be able to pay its members for their raw DNA data and has been approved by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Plus, once you are a member you own shares of the for-profit company, which are likely to grow in value over time. Read more about LunaDNA in the full review.
Founded by former researchers at the New York Genome Center and Columbia University, DNA.Land is now a for-profit, separate DNA testing company that will pay you for your DNA data. Well, pay is a strong word. For your DNA data, DNA.Land will give you a free ancestry DNA report, as well as a report on your genetic material. DNA.Land’s recent separation from their University ties frees them from some of the bureaucracy surrounding DNA testing and research, and the move makes it easier for them to get your DNA into the hands of researchers at other organizations.
You can learn many things in your report from DNA.Land. You can see a map of where your relatives came from, as well as traits like eye color, hair color, and height. The site also offers free family matching for DNA matches, so it’s worth a shot just to find some extra branches in your family tree.
Given that this kind of analysis is typically worth at least $100, that seems like a pretty fair price for the DNA sequence of your double helix. The DNA.Land databases are used to better the internal data and reference populations the company uses and are sold to third-parties for research and development purposes. You can learn more in our full review of DNA.Land.
However, check out the next two companies for even more opportunities to contribute to science and make money on your DNA!
Nebula Genomics offers one of the coolest and most technologically advanced ways of making money off of your DNA. Instead of offering you shares in the company, Nebula has developed a system that uses blockchain technology to pay you every time a researcher uses your DNA. Blockchain technology, the technology behind cryptocurrency, works by making a series of unalterable records that are linked together with encryption. So, as soon as a researcher accesses your DNA, a small amount of cryptocurrency is transferred from their account to yours. This allows Nebula to pay you fairly for every contribution you make to science!
The DNA test kit from Nebula Genomics does cost $10. But, for this price, you will get far more than you do with most testing companies. Unlike other tests, the Nebula test does not measure a few hundred thousand SNPs within the human genome. Instead, it is a whole-genome sequencing test that covers almost all of your genes in their entirety and can find any genetic variations in the base pairs you carry within your DNA sequence. This includes your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), as well as your Y-chromosome DNA. This makes their data some of the most valuable for research, as well as for understanding your health and ancestry.
Your results will include an analysis of your ancestry and certain health traits. The company is also offering oral microbiome analysis, which measures the abundance and diversity of microbes in your mouth. All of these analyses can give you great insights into your health and wellbeing. Plus, for a small subscription fee, you can also get access to new traits and correlations as they are discovered. Nebula Genomics is a great way to contribute to science and also get the most out of your DNA. Check out the full review of Nebula Genomics to get started!
You can get even more involved in research directly with the company Sanogenetics. Sanogenetics follows the basic model of the other companies profiled here, with one important difference. Sanogenetics works directly with researchers to recruit potential subjects for research studies. For example, you may have a rare genetic variant that puts you at risk for autoimmune diseases. Sanogenetics will pair you with researchers who are studying autoimmune diseases, so you can contribute directly to the research that may one day save your life!
You can get started with Sanogenetics by uploading your raw DNA data to their website. If you have yet to get your DNA tested, Sanogenetics offers several options. You can choose “industry-standard” SNP testing, or you can go big with the full-genome sequencing option that runs over $1000. This option is the most expensive, but it will also tell you the most about your genes and allow you to participate in numerous research studies on immunity, eczema, autism, diabetes, and a wide variety of other traits. You should also know that some research studies will fund all or part of your DNA sequencing if you fit the needs for their study, so you might want to hold out until a researcher buys a DNA test kit for you!
Other Ways to Explore Your Raw DNA Data
While the above companies allow you to take the DNA molecules out of their cell nucleus and put them to work, there are many other sites that can give you additional analysis of the building blocks of your DNA. You can learn about genetic disorders, and even the exact sequence of Guanine, Cytosine, Thymine, and Amine found in certain genes and what they mean! Some of the companies are even free!
To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites"