Anne Westcott

Head of Science

Living DNA October update - US Laboratory and Version 2 DNA Chip

This week Living DNA is pleased to announce two new developments. Both have come about as we see customer demand increase beyond our initial expectation and are looking for ways to better serve our customers around the world.

New USA Laboratory

To support our growing US kit sales, the science team have been working over the past year to set up the processing of US customers DNA samples within the US. Having visited a number of potential laboratory partners across the US, we settled on an industry leader in March and began the process of working together. From the 29th of October, all customers in the US will have their samples tested within the US rather than Europe.

This is a great milestone and allows us to bring down the processing times for customer results.

Updated DNA Chip

We have received a lot of interest on our previous blog post around our updated DNA chip. We have aimed to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. In short, as one of our awesome existing Living DNA customers, you will continue to be supported and compatible with updates to our regional breakdowns and family matching. We’ve made sure that customers who test on the new chip and previous chip can participate in family networks and see each other in their match lists.

When the team at Living DNA first set out on the Living DNA journey, we carefully designed the first DNA chip, Orion, to provide a detailed motherline (mtDNA) and fatherline (YDNA) readout. Eighteen months later, the custom-designed content of the DNA chips we ordered was running out, so we had the opportunity to design our new chip (something that all major DNA companies do as part of their chip review process).

The first set of results from the version 2 chip, Sirius, have just started to be released (late October 2018). It’s important to say that all customers, regardless of the chip, will continue to get updates on their regional breakdown as promised to everyone that supported Living DNA when we first launched.

Answers to the Questions We’ve Heard Most

Q. I’m already a Living DNA Customer. What does this mean for me?

In short, as one of our awesome existing Living DNA customers, you will continue to be supported and compatible with updates to our regional breakdowns and family matching.

We’ve made sure that customers who test on the version 2 chip and previous chip can participate in family networks and see each other in their match lists. After all, it's been a long time coming and the last thing we would want to do is put anything in the way of you receiving your matches.

In addition, the regional breakdown work we do is all based on the Orion chip. We’ve taken those key DNA markers and put them onto the Sirius chip. This means that regardless of the chip you are on, you will benefit from the same regional breakdown improvements as they come out.

Q. Should I retest on the Sirius chip / Will my sample be re-tested?

The DNA chips are designed to be compatible with each other. At this time, there are no Living DNA products that would benefit from an upgrade, so we don’t advise the need to upgrade. As with all DNA companies in the market, Living DNA is not able to re-run existing customers on the new chip but has worked hard to make sure the chips are highly compatible.

Q. What does this mean for GedMatch and other companies that I want to upload my data to?

GedMatch has already been working on making results from companies on the Orion chip type, the GSA, including 23andMe, work well for matching. The new Sirius chip will make the process simpler for them to do this, but please do allow the companies time to update their systems.

Q. What does the new chip mean for Family Matching?

The version 2 chip compliments the work on the current family matching project and the previous Living DNA Orion chip. If you’ve tested on the Orion chip or the new Sirius chip, your results will be compatible.

Q. Will my ethnicity results on the Orion chip get updated?

Updating ancestry estimation methods is a separate process and is not connected to updating the chip. The chip is just a means of extracting the information about a predefined set of SNPs from a person’s genome. We are holding to our commitment to provide ancestry breakdown updates to all our existing customers. Indeed, existing customers who have supported us in the early days will get ethnicity updates for life as our science improves.

Why a version 2 Chip?

When we looked at our existing DNA technology platform and the reorder process, a problem arose. If we were to simply reproduce the same chip that we originally ordered, we were warned that around 5-15% of the DNA markers might not be present due to how the manufacturing of the chip was carried out. This was concerning to us. Each mtDNA and YDNA marker is very important to Living DNA. We didn’t want to take that risk of missing markers.

The great news is that when we met with the team from Thermofisher Scientific (Affymatrix), they confirmed that their technology means that they can guarantee that 100% of the DNA markers we order can be re-ordered. Their technology is used by the largest biobanking projects around the world for its reproducibility and quality. Thus enter our new Sirius chip.

The version 2 chip contains 759,757 autosomal markers, 15227 X-chr markers, 34216 Y-chr markers, and 3982 mtDNA markers.

More on the Sirius chip

In designing the version 2 chip we took into consideration:

  • Compatibility - Make the chip as universally compatible as possible, meaning we help people who have taken DNA tests at other companies be able to use our tools and connect with our testers if desired. What’s more, we’ve made sure, first and foremost, that all customers on our Orion chip will get great results and compatibility.
  • Performance - Remove DNA markers that did not perform well on the Orion chip. Currently, as with all companies, any non-performing marker simply takes up space on the chip and the data is not used. Removing these markers frees up space for us to look at new areas of DNA, meaning we can expand our YDNA and mtDNA groups.
  • Scope - What upcoming areas of DNA would be useful to test, could be tested, and have been highlighted as important by our customers. Adding these markers onto the chip makes sure that we are providing our customers with the latest science.

Keep an eye on our social platforms and blog posts for further product updates.

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