Dante Labs is an Italian DNA testing company. They are one of the first to produce a marketable whole genome test with high enough coverage to be used by genealogists and medical researchers as a DTC product.
What is a whole genome test? We humans have two genomes. The first is our nuclear DNA genome. This is the DNA that is stored in the nucleus of our cells. It includes autosomal DNA, Y-chromosome DNA, and X-chromosome DNA. The second is our mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome. This is the DNA from the hundreds of tiny mitochondria that co-exist in our cells.
Dante Lab’s Tests
The tests sold by Dante Labs include both of these genomes. Thus, they test our mtDNA, our autosomal DNA, (if male) our Y-chromosome DNA, and our X-chromosome DNA.
They have two products the My Full DNA and the GenomeZ. The My Full DNA includes 30X coverage of the autosomal and sex chromosomes plus enhanced testing of mtDNA. It is regularly $899 US. The GenomeZ tests what the My Full DNA does. It also tests the exome at 130X coverage. An exome is all of the genes in our nuclear genome without the non-coding parts of our DNA. It is important for medical testing, but is much less useful for genealogy. GenomeZ is usally $1,499 US.
Dante Lab’s Prices
I picked up the My Full DNA test during their Black Friday sale for $199 US, but even $899 US is an amazing price.
Why would anyone not want to do this? Well…
Dante Labs’ whole genome tests are running on BGI equipment in China.*
Are you OK with that?
Very well, keep reading…
It costs more than $199 US to run a whole genome on the BGISEQ-500 equipment BGI in China is using. It even costs more than $899 US. At the coverage they are testing, the real cost of lab equipment time and materials for one human genome is very likely just about $1000 US. That means that part of the cost of running the test is coming from someplace else and someone else has a vested interest in your DNA results. It means that you are both a customer and a product.
Are you OK with that?
Very well, keep reading…
Dante Labs Whole Genome vs Microarray testing
If you are wondering just why the whole genome is better than a test from say 23andMe or Living DNA, then the key is that this really is your whole genome and not a sampling. Microarray chip based tests like they sell at Ancestry, 23andMe, and Living DNA are samples of our genomes tested with known variants. Most of those variants are common to at least 5% of the human population around the world. Some are selected to be between 1% and 5% of the human population. That means they have been around for a long time.
- No private variants.
- No family variants.
- No genealogy variants.
- No historic time-frame variants.
- Very few Bronze Age variants.
The variants on a microarray chip date to the first farmers who spread agriculture 10,000 years ago, to the Out-of-Africa travellers 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, and even back to early stone age ancestors who predated modern humans. On most microarray chips, some medical variants (mutations) are included. These are often the youngest markers on the chip.
There is much to be learned from microarray tests, but much information is also unknown. It is a bit like the Y12 Y-chromosome DNA tests that were the norm when I first started testing. They were great, but they were a drop in the bucket compared to modern Y-chromosome tests.
For those who are new to DNA testing, let me explain it another way.
Dante Labs Whole Genome Is a Personal DNA Census
You could compare it to the difference between a phone survey of people across the USA and a full census of every adult here.
- A microarray test – 1% of the population of the USA gets called using numbers in the Yellow Pages.
- An exome test – Every person in the capital city of each state in the USA is interviewed by someone who knocks on their door.
- A whole genome test – Every single person in every occupied building in the USA is interviewed by someone who knocks on their door.
A microarray test is a sample. An exome test is a census of major interest points. A whole genome is a full scale census.
Dante Labs Whole Genome & Medical Testing
Dante Labs tests are for 30X coverage. This is terminology that is used when NexGen sequencing is used. NexGen sequencing gets many short reads of parts of our genome. To ensure coverage, there may be 1 to several hundred reads for any one data point. 30X coverage means that on average the test has 30 reads for any one data point. This is considered to be the minimal coverage to use the test for medical.
Tests sold by Dante Labs are usable for medical testing.
Dante Labs Whole Genome & 3rd Party Analysis
There are several options if you are interested in analysis beyond what Dante Labs offers themselves. FGC sells a secondary medical analysis package.
There are additional advanced resources that I will explore in coming weeks while I wait for my DNA results.
Promethease offers medical analysis for a fee. They do not currently show it as an option, but when I checked with them they said that VCF files from Dante can be problematic but that BAM files usually work.
Dante Labs Whole Genome & Genealogy
Right now, nobody is doing genealogy matching with whole genomes. It is likely our future. It has the potential to eliminate false positive DNA segments above 7 cM and maybe even down to 5 cM.
Whole genomes may open the door to extensive autosomal STR and X-STR results. These have the potential to refine ethnic origins discovery. They may expand what we know of human history. Right now, population genetics uses a few dozen autosomal and X-chromosome STRs for research. There are likely hundreds (X-chromosome) to thousands (autosomal) waiting to be discovered and explored.
We are not there yet though, so interest is going to sit with those who are willing to try new things.
One part that is genealogy ready is the Y-chromosome. The testing level is lower coverage than FTDNA’s Big Y, but this is a viable test for Y-chromosome testing. People are already sending results to FGC and YFull for secondary Y-chromosome analysis.
Note: I was not asked to test or write about Dante Labs by their staff, but I want to take a moment to say that I deeply appreciate the quality of customer service I have gotten from them so far.