Touring the Family Tree DNA lab

Some people when visiting Houston might want to go see the butterflies or visit the art museum but not me. On my first day here my choice was to go over to Family Tree DNA and take a tour of their testing laboratory conducted by Bennett Greenspan himself. Sometimes there are benefits to being a well known blogger!

 The Tecan machine

Bennett points out the Tecan machine, which adds chemicals to extract the DNA

The lab is remarkable for its use of robotics. Bennett said something to us along the lines of “knowledge workers should be doing knowledge tasks and robots the repetitive tasks. Hard to compete with China any other way.” It was great to see all those automated pipettes. It would have been nice to have those in our science labs way back when.

All of us genealogists who are using DNA testing to solve family mysteries have Bennett Greenspan to thank for starting the personal genome testing revolution in 2000. All because he was a genealogist who wanted to know if he was related to some possible cousins in Argentina and could not find it with the paper trail. He also had time on his hands due to selling his photographic supplies business. Here is the story in an interview he did on youtube:

This cool machine gets the requested samples from storage which are coded by bar codes too tiny for my eyes to make out and puts them in a little trays ready for further processing.




This sign next to that machine really caught my eye

One of the things that makes Family Tree DNA special is their commitment to store your genetic material for at least 25 years. This also makes it possible to run further tests on it. In addition to autosomal DNA (the family finder test) they do Y DNA testing and mitochondrial testing and more.






PCR machines

We did happen to notice a lab worker that was not a robot filling little tubes for some test or other.










Here are some PCR machines. It was the invention of that technology to easily replicate DNA that made the genetics revolution possible. My husband loves to quote his textbooks from the 1970s which claimed this could never be done.



Machine that does PCR clean up. $11,000 for a liter of the magnetic beads!

This next machine cleans up the DNA.

This was such a fun tour, thank you Bennett.

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