Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Living DNA Test Offers People an HD View of Their Past

I received a link to this press release today via email from Living DNA:


The world’s first DNA ancestry test which allows people to break down their British ancestry to any of 21 regions in the UK and see how their worldwide ancestry has evolved over history has been launched.

Living DNA has been developed in partnership with over 100 world leading genetics experts, including the team behind the People of the British Isles Study 2015 – the first fine-scale genetic map of the British Isles. The new platform is designed to give people the most accurate and detailed estimate of their extended family tree, stretching back thousands of years.

From a simple saliva mouth swab kit, the new test uses the latest DNA testing technology to analyse over 680,000 DNA ‘markers’, and unlock a person’s genetic code to their past. Instead of looking at pieces of DNA in isolation, Living DNA analyses distinct sections of ‘linked DNA’, and then matches those findings to latest academic research using sophisticated software.

Results are displayed on an interactive online platform, breaking down an individual’s ancestry to over 80 worldwide regions, including 21 UK regions – more than any other company.

In addition, Living DNA’s product is the only one of its kind which allows users to look back over multiple generations to see their ancestry throughout human history, and discover when they shared ancestors with people throughout the world. Most other ancestry tests only look at people’s recent family history, typically going back 4 or 5 generations at most.

David Nicholson, managing director of Living DNA, comments:

“Compared to other ancestry tests out there, Living DNA is like viewing your family history on a high definition TV. By combining the latest DNA testing technology with the most robust academic research, we can give users the most accurate picture of their estimated ancestry.”

The ability for people to explore how their extended ‘ancestry family’ has changed over time is a key feature of the new product, according to Mr Nicholson:

“Our understanding of where we come from as individuals depends entirely on how far back in history we look. Our goal is to put people’s past into context in a way that has never been done before, and let people view their ancestry throughout history, to show how everyone in the world is ultimately connected.”

One of the key academic collaborators Living DNA has worked with in developing its new test has been Dr Dan Lawson from the University of Bristol, one of the authors of The People of the British Isles Study 2015 – the first fine-scale genetic map of the British Isles.

Dr Lawson has been instrumental in helping to develop Living DNA’s ground-breaking software which can now match an individual’s DNA to one of 21 regions in the UK for the first time.

“This is a whole new approach to DNA ancestry testing, and it is highly personal,” explains Dr Lawson. “No other method – either in scientific literature or in the field of personal genomics – can identify the ancestry of a single person to the level of regions within the UK.”

Living DNA’s test itself is run on a custom-built “Living DNA Orion Chip”. It is one of the first bespoke DNA chips in the world to be built using the latest GSA technology from market leader Illumina, and tests over 656,000 autosomal (family) markers, 4,700 mitrochondrial (maternal) markers and 22,000 Y-chromosomal (paternal) markers.

A lifetime membership to Living DNA costs £120, including a swab kit, the DNA ancestry test itself and access to a personalised, interactive results platform. Test results typically take 8-12 weeks before they are available, and a bespoke coffee table book of the results costs an additional £39 plus postage and packing. A membership also includes free lifetime updates to people’s results as new ancestry research and population groups are added to the platform and as science evolves.


The cost for United Kingdom customers is £120, for United States customers $159 USD, for Canada customers $199 CAD, for Australia customers $199 AUD, and for Europe customers 159,00 €.

Apparently, the DNA test is a cheek swab.  The test results include autosomal DNA, Y-chromosome DNA, X-chromosome DNA, and mitochondrial DNA results.  

You can read Debbie Kennett's blog post concerning technical details of the test (but not her test results yet) at

This test looks really interesting and useful, and it is reasonably priced considering the full set of test results.  I have significant British Isles ancestry (about 65% of my known "on paper" ancestry), so the breakdown within the United Kingdom may be interesting.  

A warning:  it appears that there is no matching feature for a tester with other testers such as are found on AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe.  This is an ethnicity test with Y, X and mt DNA information in addition.

I am not a DNA test or analysis expert like many of my geneablogging colleagues, so I am interested in their expert opinion about the Living DNA test and results.  I hope they will comment on this blog post or on their own blogs. 


Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

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