Your DNA Data Can Be Used to Make a Scarf

by Dave Smith 3 months ago in science

A London company can make unique scarfs, cushions, and gifts from your DNA profile

Your DNA Data Can Be Used to Make a Scarf

You may have heard the often-quoted fact that humans and chimpanzees share 96% of their DNA in common. You also share 90% of your DNA with your cat, and a surprising 60% with a banana!

But did you also know that you and the person next to you share over 99.99% of your genetic code in common?

To put that into perspective—if you were to print out your entire genetic code, it would take up approximately 262,000 pages, or around 175 large books. Of all those pages, a mere 500 would be unique to you—the other 261,500 pages would be identical to everybody else's (according to this excellent TED Talk by physicist Riccardo Sabatini).

But those 500 unique pages, which make up just 0.001% of your genetic code, contain all the information that makes you, you. Everything from your height to your eye colour to your susceptibility to certain diseases is contained in this last little section of your DNA profile. And it's a treasure trove of data for companies like Dot One, a London startup that have teamed up with a genetic testing lab to turn your unique DNA profile into unique gifts.

Your DNA is sampled using a cheek swab and the data found within is interpreted into a collection of glitchy, colourful patterns—as you can see below knitted into a scarf.

Image from Dot One

How it works

Dot One use the same sampling process that a lab would use for an ancestry test or a paternity test. A cheek swab is used to collect buccal cells, which are analysed back at the testing lab. The scientists look specifically for short stretches of code known as Short Tandem Repeats (STR). These markers vary from person to person—which also makes them useful for forensics and relationship testing.

But unlike an ancestry test or a paternity test, Dot One doesn't reveal much information about who you are—their service simply demonstrates the fact that you are unique.

The patterns extracted from you DNA can be knitted into a scarf or applied to a number of other novelty gifts, such as bags, cushions, posters, t-shirts and even socks!

Image from Dot One

Demystifying the science behind genetics

The company was founded by Iona Inglesby, a designer from London who wanted to bring DNA science away from just dry data, and use design and colour to make it more interesting and appealing.

“What I want to do in my work is take data that’s quite sterile and make something that people can relate to in a way that’s really personal,” she explains.

The video below explains the process in more detail:

What else can you do with DNA?

If a DNA scarf isn't for you, there are plenty of other companies that can do interesting things with your DNA data.

  • Ancestry testing—Ancestry tests such as 23AndMe are becoming increasingly popular. Your DNA sample is compared to a huge database, and scientists can take an educated guess at which country, region—and sometimes even the city—your ancestors originated from.
  • Relationship testing—And not just paternity testing—you can use DNA samples to establish your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, twins or grandparents.
  • Early gender testing—Can't wait for your 16 week ultrasound scan? Scientists can now use a blood sample from a pregnant mother to determine the gender of their unborn baby. The test can be done as early as eight weeks and is more accurate than an ultrasound.
  • Medical tests—Although there have been doubts about their reliability, companies can analyse a DNA sample for signs of inheritable diseases & medical conditions. It's worth noting that some have criticised these kinds of tests for being difficult to understand and for causing undue panic.
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Dave Smith

Science man.

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