While the debate over the utility of whole-genome sequencing in the clinic continues, it is already being used by companies for an entirely different purpose, says Nature News' Ewen Callaway — ancestry testing. Though this is not necessarily new, it is becoming more popular, with high-profile people like former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealing their roots after undergoing testing. "Commercial ancestry testing, once the province of limited information of dubious accuracy, is taking advantage of whole-genome scans, sophisticated analyses and ever-deeper databases of human genetic diversity to help people to answer a simple question: where am I from?" Callaway says. Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com now offer ancestral DNA tracing services, he adds.
Some researchers say, however, that more studies of genetic diversity are needed in certain parts of the world for people to gain a complete picture of their roots. University of Pennsylvania's Sarah Tishkoff tells Callaway that it's not possible to trace ancestry to a certain area if that place has never been studied.