Yesterday Science published a report from deCODE genetics in Iceland and a second report from academic colleagues in the United States and Canada that announced the discovery of a gene variant (a SNP) on chromosome 9p21 that results in an increased risk of heart attack (the abstracts are available online here and here). The SNP was discovered through genome-wide SNP analysis in Iceland and replicated in three groups of European descent in the United States. I don’t have access to either paper, but according to deCODE’s press release the variant is estimated to account for 20% of the incidence of heart attacks in Europeans, including one-third of early-onset cases (men and women age 50 to 60). Both companies used SNP Chips (that’s fun to say outloud), tiny gene chips that contain thousands and thousands of SNPs across the entire genome. Want to learn more about SNPs? Go to the SNP information page at the Human Genome Project.
deCODE genetics “is a global leader in gene discovery – our population approach and resources have enabled us to isolate key genes contributing to major public health challenges from cardiovascular disease to cancer, genes that are providing us with drug targets rooted in the basic biology of disease.” The company plans to “bundle this discovery with other genetic variants it has linked to risk of heart attack into a DNA-based test for gauging inherited risk of [heart attack].”
You can read more about this latest discovery at the New York Times, and at Eye on DNA, an interesting and educational blog that follows all the latest developments in genetics. Whenever I sit down to write about the latest genetic discovery in the news, I have to go to Eye on DNA to make sure there’s something left to write about!
So what does this have to do with genetic genealogy? Part of the reason that deCODE has had so much success in identifying SNPs and genes involved in disease is because of the extensive genealogies and medical histories available to Icelandic researchers. This type of information is a vital part of genetic studies such as this one. Instead of using genetics to explore ancestry, deCODE is using ancestry to explore genetics! At the same time that science is allowing genealogists to expand our knowledge, we genealogists have the opportunity to give something back by recording and maintaining detailed family medical records.
Some interesting facts about Icelandic genealogy:
1. The country’s public health services has maintained detailed individual medical records since 1915.
2. 80% of all Icelandic people who have ever lived can be traced on family trees.
3. There has been very little genetic influence since the Vikings and Celts settled there almost 1200 years ago.
Last week I posted Ten Videos for Genetic Genealogists, a collection of YouTube and other videos that might be of use to people who are just starting out in the field of genetic genealogy (and hopefully many others!).
Another valuable (and ever-growing) resource for genetic genealogists (indeed, for ALL genealogists, is Roots TelevisionTM.Â Roots Television is an online media presentation website created by historian Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and media producer Marcy Brown.Â The site offers a wide variety of programming on such topics as genetic genealogy, Irish roots, and African roots, as well as recordings of presentations by some of the world’s leading genealogists (to name only a few).
Roots TelevisionTM introduces themselves with the following:
“Well, now there’s a channel for us. Roots TelevisionTM is by and for avid genealogists and family history lovers of all stripes. Whether you’re an archives hound, a scrapbooker, a cousin collector, a roots-travel enthusiast, a Civil War re-enactor, a DNA fan, a reunion instigator, a sepia-toned photos zealot, an Internet-junkie, a history buff, an old country traditions follower, a cemetery devotee, a story-teller, a multicultural food aficionado, a flea market and antiques fanatic, a family documentarian, a nostalgia nut, or a mystery-solver, Roots TelevisionTM has something for you — and that “something” is quality programming.”
To learn more about Roots TelevisionTM visit their About Page or sign up for the Newsletter.Â They also have a great Programming Guide that lists many of their educational offerings.
Update: The podcast was updated to add the last 5 minutes of the interview (after the commercial break).Â As a result, the link to the podcast changed.Â I apologize to everyone who tried the old link – it should work fine now.
Market News First, a website dedicated to microcap markets, recently interviewed the CEO of DNAPrint Genomics, Inc.”Richard Gabriel, President and CEO of DNAPrint Genomics, Inc. spoke with MN1.com’s Rich Hancock on April 26th, 2007 about the Company’s innovative and cutting edge technology that aids law enforcement crime scene investigation (CSI) forensics, consumer applications in genealogy ancestry/genetic testing and its pharmaceutical and diagnostic applications. Mr. Gabriel highlights the Company’s recent advances in its pharmaceutical and diagnostic, and talks about its successes in both law enforcement and the growth market of DNAPrint’s consumer oriented products.”
The interview was podcast and will be available for six months.
AncestryByDNA looks at a person’s “BioGeographical Ancestry,” their ancestry dating back 15,000 to 20,000 years. They accomplish this by analyzing a number of SNPs that they have found has a correlation to a person’s geographical ancestry. I have previously written a review of AncestryByDNA.
The company is exploring the forensics/pharmaceutical arena. The interview addresses one of their first forensic cases involving a serial killer in Louisiana. As a result of the AncestryByDNA analysis, the task force switched directions and soon caught the criminal. Since that time the company has been involved in 200 cases involving criminals and have been asked to assist in identifying remains.
According to Mr. Gabriel, in 2006 the company increased revenue by 90% over the previous year.