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NOVA: Secrets In Our DNA

NOVA “Secrets In Our DNA” premieres Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.
Courtesy of Tartila/ CoreDESIGN/ Nikolamirejovska/ Shutterstock
NOVA “Secrets In Our DNA” premieres Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV + Sunday, April 3 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand with the PBS Video App

Some 30 million people have sent their DNA to be analyzed by companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, hoping to obtain clues to family origins and forecasts of their future health. Some users have found family members and discovered lurking genetic risks. But what happens once the sample is in the hands of testing companies? What are they looking at and how accurate are their results?

NOVA: Secrets in our DNA: Preview

NOVA explores the power of this information and the unintended consequences that can arise from sharing our data with these rapidly growing online databases. DNA results that offer estimates of health risks can be misleading, and the discovery of intimate family secrets can tear relationships apart.

How—and why—DNA Testing Uses Biased Reference Databases

Meanwhile, law enforcement is increasingly turning to the DNA-sharing website GEDmatch as an extraordinarily powerful tool for cracking cold cases, as demonstrated by the 2018 arrest of California’s notorious Golden State Killer after 42 years at large. What is the peril and promise of consumer DNA testing?

Half Sisters Unite Thanks to DNA Testing

Related Article: An Indigenous bioethicist on CRISPR and decolonizing DNA by Alissa Greenberg - Gene-editing technology is progressing faster than our ethical conversations about how we should use it. Krystal Tsosie thinks that’s a problem.

Watch On Your Schedule:

This episode is available on demand on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast, for a limited time.

Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, a benefit for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.


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A NOVA production by Kikim Media for GBH Boston. Narrated by Talithia Williams. Produced by Kiki Kapany and Michael Schwarz. Written and Directed by Edward Gray. Edited by Shirley Gutierrez. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH Boston.