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DNA From Ma or Pa?

Consumer genetics and genealogy company Ancestry has introduced a new feature called SideView that will inform customers about what parts of their DNA and ethnicities are inherited from each parent, without having parental genetic data — a first in the industry, The Verge reports.

"It's a really big breakthrough for science in general," Barry Starr, director of scientific communications at Ancestry, told The Verge. "That's really something that no one else has been able to do without having a parent tested as well."

Genetic information is packaged in pairs of chromosomes, and each parent contributes one copy of most chromosomes. Prior to this breakthrough, DNA sequencing provided genetic information without specifying which parent different sections of chromosomal pairs came from, and this could only be elucidated by comparing sections to the DNA of one or both parents. Ancestry's technique uses the company's DNA database of some 20 million people's genetic information to find overlaps between each user and cousins or distant relatives also in the system, then uses those overlaps to sort each section of DNA by which parent it was inherited from, The Verge reports.

This method was only feasible once Ancestry's DNA database became large enough. The company says the feature is 95 percent accurate for 90 percent of customers. "The bigger the database, the better you can do," Starr told The Verge.

However, Ancestry's database currently largely comprises people with European ancestry, making the feature less accurate for uses with other ancestry, according to a white paper issued by the company.

The new feature will be automatically available for all Ancestry users, The Verge noted.