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How the Personal Genome Service works

To get started with the 23andMe Personal Genome Service®, navigate to our online store and order a saliva collection kit. Once you have received your kit, you will need to register the collection tube’s barcode so we can connect that tube to you and process your sample. Be sure to provide your sample following the detailed instructions included in your saliva collection kit, and mail your kit back to us in the pre-paid packaging.

After our laboratory receives your sample, your results will be available in your account in approximately 3-5 weeks. You can track your sample's progress by logging in to your online account. 

Still have questions? Select the topic that you would like to learn more about:

  • When will I receive results?
  • How can I view my results? Will I receive a printed copy?
  • What type of DNA analysis does 23andMe do?
  • What technology is used for the analysis?
  • How does 23andMe genotype my DNA?
  • What type of sample can 23andMe analyse?
  • Who can use the 23andMe Personal Genome Service?
When will I receive results?

Sample processing typically takes 3-5 weeks from the time your sample is received at the lab. Processing times are estimates, and should not be considered a guarantee that your results will be returned by a particular date. While samples are processed in the order in which they are received, some samples may require additional steps to be processed successfully, which may extend the processing time.

How can I view my results?

After you receive your 23andMe saliva collection kit, you will be prompted to create an online account to register your collection tube. The information available to you from the 23andMe Personal Genome Service will be presented in the context of our web-based reports, tools and features accessible through your account online. Keep in mind that 23andMe is exclusively an online service, and we do not provide a printed or printable report via mail or email.

In order to receive the service, you need to have a valid email address from which you can send and receive messages. You will also need access to a computer or mobile device that connects to the internet.

What type of DNA analysis does 23andMe do?

Our genomes, which are composed of DNA sequences, contain the instructions for making every cell in our body. Most of our DNA sequences are identical from person to person, but there are specific positions in the sequence that are known to vary between individuals. For example, at the same position, one person might have the DNA letter C while another person might have a T. These DNA differences are called variants. 23andMe analyzes your DNA by looking at certain genetic variants in the genome. We determine which version you have at each position using a process called genotyping.

Although the human genome is estimated to contain about 10-30 million genetic variants, many of them are correlated due to their close physical proximity to each other. Thus, one genetic variant is often representative of many nearby variants, and the specific variants we look at provide very good coverage of common variation across the entire genome.

What technology is used for the analysis?

We use leading technology to genotype your DNA—a custom Illumina HumanOmniExpress-24 format chip. In addition to the variants already included on the chip by Illumina, we’ve included our own, customized set of variants that are of special interest. Technical information on the performance of the chip can be found on Illumina's website.

How does 23andMe genotype my DNA?

Once our lab receives your sample, DNA is extracted from cells contained in your saliva. The lab then copies the DNA many times—a process called amplification—duplicating the tiny amount extracted from your saliva until there is enough to be genotyped.

In order to be genotyped, the amplified DNA is “cut” into smaller pieces, which are then applied to our DNA chip (also known as a microarray), a small glass slide with millions of microscopic “beads” on its surface. Each bead is attached to a “probe," a bit of DNA that matches one of the genetic variants that we test. The cut pieces of your DNA stick to the matching DNA probes. A fluorescent label on each probe identifies which version of that genetic variant your DNA corresponds to.

The following video gives you a behind-the-scenes look at some of these steps taking place at our lab:

What type of sample can 23andMe analyse?

The 23andMe Personal Genome Service can only be performed using a saliva sample collected using the saliva collection kit that we provide to you. The saliva sample required for analysis is ~2 mL.

Saliva samples offer a convenient and non-invasive method for DNA sample collection as compared to hair and blood samples. Cheek swab samples of DNA (as you may have seen on television programs or in movies) do not consistently give sufficient DNA yields for the testing that we conduct.

Unfortunately, we are unable to analyse any other type of sample.

Who can use the 23andMe Personal Genome Service?

Most people who are able to produce saliva (~2 mL) and are able to spit can usually produce a viable sample. However, if you have received a bone marrow transplant for the treatment of a condition or disease, we cannot recommend that you participate in 23andMe. If you are undergoing medical treatment that reduces your white blood cell count, such as chemotherapy, it is best to wait at least two weeks after your last treatment or until your white blood cell count has returned to normal.

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