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Where do we come from?

City-based genomics startup Xcode traces genetic history of individuals using technology to extract information recorded in the genes over generations

Published: 10th January 2018 11:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th January 2018 07:14 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Dr Abdur Rub, co-founder and CTO, says, the DNA contains all the necessary information for the functioning of the human body. While 99.9 per cent of DNA from all individuals is similar, the remaining 0.1 per cent accounts for nearly 3 million differences among individuals. DNA is extracted from the biological cells present in the saliva sample for genetic analysis. “This is done in our certified laboratories. The DNA is then compared to thousands of other samples belonging to different geographical populations using Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques. Your ancestry composition is estimated, based on your genetic similarity with other populations,” he explains.

Dr Abdur Rub

Reason for our design
Abdur says every feature in the human body has a possible adaptation story behind it. The differences that we see in the way people of different ethnicities look are due to the biological adaptations of the human body to the environment. “For example, human ancestors who lived in sunny and hot areas of the world developed a darker skin and those living in colder and less sunny areas developed a lighter skin. The ancestry DNA test helps unravel this information and your unique ancestral journey as recorded in your genes,” he explains. He believes genetics can be a great unifying force. “With ancestry testing, what people can realise is that we are not the same but we are 99.999 per cent similar no matter where we live, how we look or what we follow,” he says.

One of the citizens from Chennai Anand Rao (name changed) took the genetic test. He always had an interest in his past generations. The information he had was that his ancestors had originally migrated from areas such as Yemen and were traders with the West Coast of India and had settled in India many hundreds of years ago. He says he tried the ancestry test to figure out whether this held true scientifically. He adds, “The test then seemed to show that about quarter of my ancestry showed a match with non-South Asian populations, specifically Europeans which also might include certain Middle Eastern populations. The test mentioned my ancestry to be more than 60 per cent South Asian, and more specifically ‘Ancestral North Indian’. This means my ancestry can be traced to India.”

Beginning of exciting quest
Anand, in his early thirties, works in the industrial sector and his family members were aware of possible Middle Eastern roots, but they were never interested in a detailed study, he says. He informed about the test only to his mother after he had taken the test. He adds that it has always been interesting and exciting for him to have a deep understanding of how he came to be here today. “This will no doubt be a lifelong quest, and this ancestry test is just the beginning,” he says.

Reducing errors
Accuracy of this report arises from two components - analytical and predictive, says Abdur. “The analytical accuracy is more than 99 per cent, since the samples are processed using state-of-the-art, calibrated and well-tested equipments. The prediction accuracy depends on the reference population that is utilised. Xcode has a reference population of more than 5,000 individuals and this number only grows as and when new customers sign up,” he says. The test costs about `9,900. “The DNA test kit contains a saliva collection tube and booklet containing detailed instructions to guide the customer in the process of sample collection. We provide free two ways shipping throughout India and arrange for a reverse-pick up after the sample is retrieved,” he adds.

The start-up claims that they do not share patient information with any third party companies, they offer to delete the raw data when requested by the customer. “The DNA data is a blueprint of your whole system and can reveal information on several aspects of your lifestyle such as nutrition, fitness, or allergies. The customer can access any of these details without having to provide another sample,” he says.

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