Human Genetics

How can your saliva reveal your genetic makeup?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. The saliva in your mouth contains hundreds of enzymes that help digest food. Inner cheek skin cells are mixed together with those enzymes, and those cells house nuclei with chromosomes containing DNA. So, from one mouthful of saliva, you can uncover a lot of important information about yourself. You could say, then, that spitting is becoming a popular way to test your genetic makeup. Using your saliva for genetic testing can be a useful way to detect any diseases that are connected to gene mutations or variations. There are more than 900 different ways to test your genetic makeup, but saliva is one of the simplest.

    You can even test your spit from home. At-home genetic testing kits are pretty straightforward. First, go online and open an account with a genetic testing service provider, such as 23andMe, Navigenics or deCODEme, and order a test. The company mails you the do-it-yourself kit, complete with any necessary equipment you need. To perform the test, collect about two tablespoons of saliva into the enclosed cup or tube and mail it back to the company. The company extracts your cheek cells from the sample and tests them to check deviations from regular DNA cells. When the results are ready, a representative from the company contacts you to discuss the results and may even offer support information.

    The results of the saliva testing can reveal genetic markers in your DNA that may indicate susceptibility to various diseases, which can help you determine what kind of medical care you may need now or in the future. Depending on which company performs the testing, you may be able to see genetic markers for arthritis, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, thrombosis, diabetes and more.

    More answers from Discovery Channel »



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