What happens to my DNA sample once I’ve shipped it to the laboratory?

From the moment DNA samples have been received at our CLIA-certified laboratory in the USA, the first thing we do is verify that they are readable and that all necessary components are in place.

What happens next?

DNA extraction

Your DNA sample is a collection of your cells, and your DNA is tucked away into the nucleus of each of these cells. In order to analyze the DNA molecule we first need to extract it from the cells contained in your sample.

We begin the extraction process by transferring your sample onto a deep well plate containing a total of 96 samples. We inject the samples with a special substance that eats away at any contaminants on the sample, leaving it clean and ready for extraction. Finally, our extraction robot separates the DNA from any other materials in the sample.

If both vials of your DNA sample are readable, we will now store one in our robotic freezer in case it’s needed later, while the other will continue to the next steps of the lab process.

Microarray process

The microarray process is the translation of biological information into digital raw data. Once we have extracted the DNA from your sample, we need to make lots of copies of it so that we have enough substance for analysis. This process of copying your entire genome millions of times is called amplification.

Next, we place your DNA onto our specialized Illumina chip. The DNA binds to the chip in a process called hybridization. The chip is chemically stained so the different fragments of DNA on the chip can be read by laser. After the staining, the chip is ready for scanning in our iScan chip scanner, which produces an image of your DNA data. 

Raw data production  

Your DNA data is being loaded into our highly secured server and analyzed by both automated algorithms and our data scientists.

Once the raw data is produced, we will have a digital file associated with your kit number.

Our algorithms calculate your Ethnicity Estimate, by estimating which pieces of your DNA originate from different regions in the world. We also try to find matches between your DNA and the DNA of all other users who took our test, or uploaded the raw data of kits provided by other services. 

To learn what to do next, please read the following: Where can I see my DNA results?