Genetic Testing: Finding your long lost cousins
A genetic testing company is making waves around the world with new technology that until recently wasn't even possible. It's called 23andMe and experts are calling the invention one of the greatest scientific achievements.
"This is going to turn out to be the cusp of an explosion," said Van Warren, who's tried the test.
It's the unquenchable curiosity that the human race has always had---the burning desire to know where we come from? Who were those before us? What genetic risks do we carry? They are questions that can now be answered with more detail than ever before. Just by providing your DNA.
A gift from Warren's kids in California gave him this opportunity.
"I spit into the tube and clicked the top shut," said Warren.
And just like that he began his journey.
After a long three weeks Warren's results finally arrived. He learned he's a distant cousin of Katie Couric, Meryl Streep and closely related to Stephen Colbert. But his small sample of DNA revealed an ever bigger surprise.
"I carry in myself fragment of people of color," said Warren. "And this is a source of pride and honor for me. But I don't know how people in the South will take that."
Not only does this test tell you where your ancestors are from but it also reveals what genetic risks you may have inherited that you may want to talk to your doctor about.
"Lynn's story with the BRCA1 concern had been burning in me for ten years," said Warren.
His wife, a cancer survivor, was tested for the gene mutations called BRCA1 and BRCA2 which can cause breast and ovarian cancer. It's a test recently made popular by actress Angelina Jolie. She got a double mastectomy after her results revealed she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer. Warren found out he doesn't carry the mutation and neither does his wife.
But how reliable is it?
"I've had my 23andMe done," said Brad Schaefer, Chief of Genetics at UAMS.
He says there aren't many negatives to what the genetic risks test offers.
"The negative is does that scare the wee out of you," he said. "The positive is if you test negative then I'm off the hook. If you test positive, at least you're empowered to make some decisions."
It's the kind of power that gives people the ability make more informed decisions.
"To actually have the tools now to start taking that information and helping people with it, how can you not get excited about it?" he said.
Warren received the 6th and last component of his result the day we met.
I felt this wistful sadness," he said. "Not that I had gotten all of these results, but that I would never again experience this knowing for the first time."
It ended what was for him an empowering adventure.
"How often do we in modern society get to be true explorers of what all of our ancestors went through to get us here intact," he said.
A journey he says offers an experience that's invaluable and eye opening.
"We're are the first generation that can peer over this ledge and see the whole past out before us like a vision of what it used to be like," he said.
One that he says is bound to change the way we look at ourselves and one another.
"I think it's the basis, if we manage it properly, of an enormous social revolution," he said.
For more information on 23andMe visit their website HERE