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It's official! Register hack is an alcohol-flushed cave dweller

Budget DNA test reveals our man's genome secrets

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Give me the bad news, doc, but perhaps not quite all the bad news

At this point I was beginning to explore darker waters. Some results are "locked", in the sense that you have to opt in to view them. This was the case regarding TTR-related familial amyloid polyneuropathy, a rare disease which "can affect the nervous system, heart, eyes, and other organs".

Before clicking the button, I was informed: "More than 90 mutations in the TTR gene have been linked to familial amyloid polyneuropathy. This report covers two mutations called Val30Met and Thr60Ala.

"The Val30Met mutation causes most cases of the disease in people with Portuguese, Swedish or Japanese ancestry. The Thr60Ala mutation is found primarily in people with Irish ancestry. These two mutations account for the majority of the disease in people with Asian and European ancestry."

Having decided to take the plunge, I was mercifully informed I don't have "any of the TTR mutations linked with familial amyloid polyneuropathy reported by 23andMe".

This locked report approach is sound for those who "prefer not to know", although I can't really imagine anyone having opted to be tested in the first place not clicking the button, for better or worse.

On a lighter note, I was unsurprised to learn I don't suffer from alcohol flush reaction, which for sufferers means booze "has such an unpleasant, noxious effect that they tend to avoid it altogether". As my liver can attest, I have two working copies of the ALDH2 gene, that "encodes a protein called aldehyde dehydrogenase". This is an enzyme "responsible for the second step of ethanol processing: the conversion of the highly toxic acetaldehyde to the harmless acetic acid (vinegar)".

Regarding the aforementioned ear wax, it is indeed enlightening to discover that you're either wet or dry, according to a Mendelian trait, as determined by the ABCC11 gene.

23andMe elaborates: "This gene encodes a protein known to transport fat-like compounds out of cells, including various types of drugs. The C version of the SNP makes a version of the protein that is a much more efficient pump than the one encoded by the T version. The protein may thus be directly involved in secreting some of the oily substances that make earwax wet."

It concludes: "It is not known whether there would be any evolutionary advantage to having wet versus dry earwax."

Of course, I'd like to believe that there's a direct genetic link between wet ear wax and evolutionary success, and indeed intelligence, athletic prowess and sexual attractiveness, but while I await confirmation of that, I'll have to make do with having a direct genetic link to the Arabian Peninsula.

My maternal lineage puts me in the J1c3b subdivision of haplogroup J1. 23andMe explains: "Haplogroup J originated about 45,000 years ago on the Arabian Peninsula not long after modern humans expanded out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages of J, including J1, into Europe. Today the haplogroup extends as far west as Britain and as far east as Central Asia."

On dad's side of the family, meanwhile, I'm part of R1b1b2a1a1 - a subgroup of R1b1b, the "most common haplogroup in western Europe, with distinct branches in specific regions".

Fascinating stuff, although level-headed boffins have warned about reading too much into such revelations, and that in the end, everyone is distantly related to everyone else.

Likewise, the fact I'm 2.7 per cent Neanderthal isn't particularly significant. All modern humans contain between one and four per cent Neanderthal DNA, and we'll leave it to readers to decide whether those packing higher than average amount of caveman can be identified by troglodytic tendencies.

I've still got more results from my test to trawl through, while I ponder what future use they might serve. One appealing possibility is that although the info is "for research and educational purposes only, and is not for diagnostic use", I could download all of the raw SNP data, slap it on in my doctor's desk and say: "There you go, work it out from that while me and my ALDH2 genes go for a few pints." ®

Bootnote

No doubt readers have concerns about the possible implications of wide-scale DNA testing. 23andMe acknowledges that "the availability of personal genetic information raises important issues at the nexus of ethics, law, and public policy". We'll examine these issues in a follow-up article.

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