The difference between unlocking your full genome and a SNP analysis

In this article we aim to concisely explain the difference between whole genome sequencing and genotyping (the category that SNP analysis falls into). Both have different uses and costs, so it's good for you to know the ins and outs before you purchase one.

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If you’re reading this, then you may be somewhat aware of what genetic testing does. Perhaps you’re looking to do a DNA test yourself. But, there’s so much to consider that it can be slightly overwhelming.

Before you even start comparing DNA tests, it’s important to understand the difference between whole genome sequencing and genotyping (the category that SNP analysis falls into).

What is the difference between whole genome sequencing and SNP analysis?

In short, full genome sequencing gives you all of the information of some three billion base pairs of DNA found in humans. Unlocking your full genome is very expensive.

A SNP analysis, on the other hand, only looks at specific locations in DNA where relevant information can be gathered. This depends entirely on what you want to know - be it ancestry, paternity, disease risk or health and fitness. This is substantially more affordable for the everyday man on the street.

Now, let’s look at those two types of DNA tests in more detail.

What is whole genome sequencing?

As stated before, whole genome sequencing gives you the full picture of your DNA. This is largely for the most curious of people, who are willing to part with more money than regular customers of direct-to-consumer DNA tests. However, it could also help people who have medical issues that they haven’t been able to successfully identify the cause of.

According to this article published in 2018, an incredibly small percentage of your genome is known - in fact as little as 1 - 2% of your genome can be described as “coding DNA.” That is DNA which codes for the proteins which make up all our cells and allow us to function as the unique humans we are. The rest of your genomes, known as “non-coding DNA,” was long thought of as junk DNA, but as we understand more about our genetics we now know these regions play a hugely important role in regulating the coding portions of our DNA.

The science is constantly expanding. For this reason, and hopefully as costs continue to decrease, it could become important in the near future for people to do whole genome sequencing in order to prevent disease.

What is a SNP analysis?

DNAFit, like most direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies (such as 23andMe, Helix and AncestryDNA) perform genotyping analysis.

Genotyping analyses the known genetic variants in a person’s DNA, in order to understand what makes individuals different from one another. These variants have been researched and analysed to show an effect. DNAFit specifically focuses on SNP analysis - looking only at the genes which have a direct impact on our response to changes in diet and exercise. For example, if a person is sensitive to carbohydrates then recommendations can be made to them based on their genes.

What differentiates DNAFit’s SNP analysis from competitors is that you do not receive a full raw data file. We only test for the genetic variations that we analyse in our report. Your raw data is destroyed after your DNAFit reports are compiled. We find that performing a SNP analysis enables us to maintain a higher level of data integrity and security, in line with our privacy policy and ISO 27001 certification.

How long does a DNA test take to process?

A DNA test with DNAFit takes 10 working days to process, from the date your sample is received by our lab. This amount of time varies between different genetic testing companies based on their level of analysis and internal procedures.

How much does a DNA test cost?

As we mentioned above, there is a huge difference in price between full genome sequencing and a SNP analysis.

How much does whole genome sequencing cost?

The cost of whole genome sequencing has steadily decreased since the first human genome was sequenced (for a total cost of $2.7 billion) in 2003. According to the National Human Genome Research Project, 2006 saw prices fall to around about $300 million. Whole genome sequencing now costs roughly $1000.

How much does SNP analysis cost?

The cost of a SNP analysis can vary greatly from supplier to supplier, but so will the quality of the product. Before you opt for the cheapest test on the market, you need to ensure that the supplier is reputable and that you'll receive accurate DNA test results. 

It's important to know what self-regulating behaviours the genetic testing company uses to safeguard your genetic information. Choosing a reputable supplier also ensures that your DNA test results and other personal data is secure.

Once you are informed you can make the right decision for you

There are many considerations to take into account when doing a DNA test. Firstly, you need to decide how much you are willing to pay. Then, once you have chosen between whole genome sequencing or genotyping analysis you need to know what information you are after and what you intend to use it for.

Do you want to be healthier, find about your ancestry or do you want to know which preventable diseases you have a heightened risk for? Once you know, you can then look for reputable suppliers who will be able to service your needs.

You can read more about how to choose a DNA test here.

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