What does DNA mean to you? #10

What does DNA mean to you? #10

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted June 18, 2008 in Meaning of DNA

dna dundeeDNA holds a lot of meaning for the always thorough Blaine Bettinger of The Genetic Genealogist.

When I first received this question, I quickly realized that I could probably spend hours answering it. DNA has had such a profound impact on my life that I barely know where to begin.

I guess I should start with my own DNA. As a genetic genealogist, I have sequenced tiny portions of my DNA and the DNA of relatives to learn about the ancestral sources of those sequences. The results have allowed me to understand more about my most distant paternal ancestor who came to America and fought in the Revolutionary War, as well as my most distant maternal ancestor who lived in Central America and had Native American roots (which I discovered from the DNA testing). Although these pieces of DNA passed through these individuals with perhaps only a few small changes before reaching me, seeing these sequences gives me the first tenable insight into these ancestors aside from their name and the date of their birth and death. These tiny pieces of DNA have created a link between me and ancestors who died nearly 200 years ago.

Perhaps even more importantly, genetic genealogy has given me the first piece of information about the ancestry of a paternal great-grandmother who was adopted upon birth. Although this small piece of circular DNA from my paternal great-grandmother is not part of my own genetics, it was a part of her; and every decision she made ultimately led to me. Additionally, it is likely that I inherited some other part of my great-grandmother’s DNA. Thus, genetic genealogy has given me clues to some of the secrets contained within my genome.

DNA was also the basis of my graduate research. I worked in yeast genetics, a field with a long and rich history. I spent years attempting to unravel some of the mysteries of yeast genetics, and I was proud to be able to contribute (a very small bit of useful information) to the field. Although I’ve left the bench science behind me, I use the skills and the knowledge I gained on a daily basis.

And lastly, through my blog, DNA has given me an outlet to join the global conversation about genetic testing, genetic genealogy, personalized genetics, and genetic ethics. Through this outlet I have met and befriended numerous interesting and intelligent individuals who are interested in many of the same topics, including Hsien, members of The DNA Network, members of The Genealogists, some fantastic genetic genealogists, and many, many others.

Going forward, DNA will undoubtedly have even more of an effect on my life. I hope to continue to contribute to the conversation about genetic genealogy and personalized genetics, to meet new people who are interested in these issues, and to continue to explore and utilize new technologies that will help me explore my genetic past.



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Comment by Mr. Gene Subscribed to comments via email

DNA is my business: Approx. ten years back I have done my first PCR reactions and now I am selling synthetic DNA, codon optimized for maximum expression in a specific host. DNA synthesis is somehow my livelihood – not only on biological but also on pecuniary level.

Comment by Khushi

To me, DNA means a way to Demystify Nature’s Accuracy and the interdependence of the two to unfold the hidden secrets.


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