INDIO, Calif. - It's all in your DNA.
Learning about your health, history, and genes is easier and cheaper than ever thanks to test kits from companies like Ancestry, 23andme and MyHeritage.
But sometimes you can find out much more than you want to know.
Teresa Kochel, a mother of three from Indio, got some surprising results when she took her 23andme test.
Kochel's test results showed she had a slightly increased risk for late-onset Alzheimers, that she had the gene of elite power athletes, that she had Native Alaskan heritage. But months later, she got a surprising email.
"I logged out and I logged back in, and then I refreshed it because I thought it was maybe an advertisement telling me I could find out who my dad was, and then I kept looking, and it said. 'You share 50% of your DNA with Charles Peo.' And I thought, 'I've never heard this name before.' I
was told my father was John Tisdale."
Kochel's mother grew up in the small Alaskan fishing village of King Salmon, which served as a kind of Air Force base during World War Two. In the '70's lots of GI's came to King Salmon. Peo was one of those men.
Peo responded to Kochel's email right away.
"He was very shocked. He didn't know either," Kochel said.
U.C. Riverside Geonomic Core manager Matthew Collin says that can be one problem with DNA kits like those.
"I think some people aren't aware of the depth of information that they might discover, and how to interpret all the data," Collin said.
Collin said we are still in the infancy of what all this data can do.
"You're getting a little bit of information about your DNA and what it may or may not mean," Collin said.
If you're looking for parents, or grandparents or siblings? The results are a sure thing. But it gets a little bit trickier if you are trying to find out where in the world you are from.
Secondary markets are springing up just to get to the bottom of conflicting ancestry results from DNA kits.
"How do you know what is 100 percent Lithuanian? Everybody has been migrating across the world for the last 200 years or more," Collin said. "So their database is really dependent on who sends in their sample, and who has it sequenced, and what they've reported. And also the algorithms that they use to interpret it."
Collin says privacy is also a major concern.
"I think other people should be concerned about it too," Collin said. "Any computer can be hacked."
Another thing to think about is all that information about your health.
"I would like to say that I hope insurance companies don't get this information and change the way they insure you," Kochel said.
Kochel said she is glad she took the test. As it turns out, until recently, her biological dad lived just an hour away, in Riverside. When Kochel finally met her father at the airport in Portland, they both had tears in their eyes.
But that new relationship also blew up both their lives as they knew it.
"The one brother that I thought was my full brother is my half-brother. He has a different dad as well," Kochel said.
That's why she cautions anyone who is curious about a taking DNA test.
"Make sure you're prepared to deal with what you're going to find out," Kochel advised.
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