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Using Helix

Why do you need my saliva sample?

In order to sequence your DNA, we need something from you that has your DNA. Saliva is an easy source of DNA and is painless to collect.

Is your lab certified?

The Helix lab is CLIA-certified (ID# 05D2117342). A CLIA-certified lab meets certain quality standards under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, including qualifications for the individuals who perform the lab processes and other standards that ensure the accuracy and reliability of results.

How accurate is sequencing?

Next-generation sequencing is typically 99.999% accurate at each location of the DNA. Helix has built a state of the art sequencing lab, and we also work closely with Illumina, the market leader in next generation sequencing technologies. Our lab is optimized to provide the highest level of accuracy as we sequence your DNA. Even with all this work, there are some limitations to the technology. In the rare case that we are unable to read small portions of your DNA, we will mark that read “unreadable” rather than guessing. You should feel confident that when you look at your data, it is as accurate as possible.

I’ve heard of genotyping. Helix does DNA sequencing. What’s the difference between genotyping and sequencing?

Genotyping and sequencing are two methods of reading DNA. Your genome consists of three billion base pairs, each of which is represented by one letter.

Genotyping is an older technology that takes a snapshot only of specific single letters. These single letters are predefined based on common typos in the genome. If you imagine that your DNA is like a book, there might be a common typo on page 12, sentence 17, letter 4, and genotyping would look there only. Because of this limitation, genotyping is static. If you decide you want to look at another place, you have to run another experiment. In addition, genotyping can only resolve single-letter typos, and does not see any errors in words or sentences. Common genotyping technologies read approximately 750,000 single letters—a small fraction of the 3 billion total letters in the genome.

In contrast, by sequencing, we read base pairs in order (like reading an entire sentence, paragraph, or chapter). By comparing your letters to a reference sequence, we can determine which letters are different. The places you are different are called “variation” and this is what makes you unique. Variation can be typos in single letters, or can be differences in entire words, sentences, paragraphs, or even pages. With sequencing, you are capturing all the words on all the pages and can flip through and find what you are looking for, even if you didn’t know what you wanted when you started. Sequencing can also read hundreds of times more data than is possible in genotyping. For example, Helix’s Exome+ technology reads approximately 100,000,000 letters, including every letter of every protein-coding gene. Because of this, sequencing is more comprehensive than genotyping and is generally the highest standard for DNA applications.

Can I access all the data Helix obtains from sequencing my DNA sample?

We are actively working on a process to allow you to purchase your Exome+ genetic information. The exact cost and timing are in the works, but we’ll make this available sometime in 2017. If you’d like to be added to the notification list when this is available for purchase, please contact our support team.

Which browsers does Helix support?

Helix supports the following browsers: Chrome (47 and above), Safari (9 and above), Firefox (44 and above), IE (10 and above), Edge (13 and above), Android browser (4.1 and above).

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