With the popular African American Lives series on PBS and numerous news stories and magazine columns, Black History Month often results in increased attention to the genealogy and genetic history of African Americans. I saw a similar increased interest in genetic genealogy last February as well.
“One of the more fascinating developments with the new genealogy is the extent to which DNA testing is revealing the multi-racial ancestry of Americans. While thereâ€™s some controversy about the claims of DNA testing firms as to how accurately they can match individuals to ancestors from specific communities and ethnic groups, thereâ€™s a consensus that proper testing can roughly specify a personâ€™s relative mix of his or her ancestorsâ€™ geographic origins.”
On the heels of my recent post discussing all the interesting information that’s recently entered the blogosphere about genetic genealogy and DNA studies, here are a few more:
Misha Angrist, one of the Personal Genome Project’s “First 10“, wrote an article about the inevitability of DNA sequencing at News Observer. The article is a response to a recent editorial in the NEJM.
John Hawk’s Anthropology Weblog, “Viking Ancestry, Surnames and Medieval Genetics” examines a recent study in Molecular Biology and Evolution “investigating whether the Viking influence on surnames in England is mirrored by Y chromosomes.” It’s a great post, especially for genetic genealogists.
There is so much to talk about, and so little time to write. So I thought I’d do a round-up post to bring these interesting stories to your attention. I hope you enjoy the following:
Of great significance to genetic genealogists, the Wall Street Journal says that as many as 1 in 25 children are the result of non-paternal events! The number seems very high, but it is based on a 2005 report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health studying families in “the U.S., Europe, Russia, Canada, South Africa and several other countries.”
SNP studies are coming out left and right. The recent studies have examined variation among genomes from numerous populations using SNP chips that examine 600,000 or more SNPs. See more at GenomeWeb News, The Spittoon, and Genetic Future. A great quote comes from a discussion of one of these SNP studies at the terrific Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog:
Earlier today I posted about the recent updates to the 23andMe service, including an enhanced Gene Journal section and the new Paternal Ancestry.
To get a much more thorough analysis of these new additions, read David P. Hamilton’s “23andMe makes genomics personal â€” and slick” at VentureBeat: lifesciences. Hamilton’s articles are always insightful and well-written, and I would highly recommend this one, especially if you are considering a personal genomics service.
The Spittoon (23andMe’s blog) announces their new paternal ancestry tool. The information was already obtained from all male participants, so no further sampling is needed. I’m not sure which SNPs they are using to determine haplogroup status, but I’ll look into it.
The Gene Journal (here) adds 30 conditions and traits to bring the total number to almost 60. Interestingly, the conditions and traits are classified as either “Established Research” or “Preliminary Research” based on the studies from which they are derived.
And finally, there is a free demo account that “lets you explore all the features of our service using genetic data from our sample family, the Mendels.” It’s a good way to examine how the genomic data is analyzed and returned to customers using a browser interface.
Sykes was recently interviewed by The Telegraph in an article entitled “Curiosity Drives the Gene Genie to a Â£1m Turnover.” The article mentions that Oxford Ancestors, created in 2000, is currently bringing in Â£ 1m year (USD $1.96million), which is an increase of 10 times its initial year! There is discussion of Sykes’ upbringing, and the difficulty in commercializing scientific research.
Lastly, Sykes discusses some future directions, including using genetic research to help solve crimes:
The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) is sponsoring the Save GINA contest. I’ve written about GINA before (see “GINA: A Primer“), which is legislation currently before the Senate the seeks to protect people from discrimination based upon their DNA. The legislation is on hold in the Senate (see my summary here and here).
From the ISOGG contest site:
“GINA is the acronym for “The Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act” a bill that has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and pending a vote in the Senate except that Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has placed a “hold” on the bill to stall it from being voted upon. You can read the politics involved in the following article in Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7180/full/451745b.html“
Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld [I apologize for the previous misspelling of Greenspan’s and Blankfeld’s names] of the genetic genealogy testing company Family Tree DNA have launched a new service called DNATraits to examine a customer’s DNA for evidence of genetic disease. According to the website, DNATraits:
“provides direct-to-consumer genetic data from tests conducted on individual DNA samples. DNATraits offers tests that are broader in scope and less expensive than any in the world, complete with a free consultation with our genetic counselors before testing (optional) and a free consultation after testing (required) to discuss your results.”
DNATraits claims that their service is different from other DNA testing companies, as explained in their comparison page. Notably, the process of returning the results to the consumer appears to be different from some other companies: the DNA results are returned to the “DNATraits medical doctor for review and confirmation” before being sent to a genetic counselor. The customer is then emailed and directed to set up a telephone appointment with the genetic counselor. After the consultation, the customer is given direct access to all their test results.
The first video, “Genealogy for Sale” (although it is spelled ‘geneology’!!), is a report from chief science correspondent Robert Bazell. Bazell follows a couple who experience genetic genealogy for the first time. He mentions the use of online websites and databases, including Sorenson and Genetree. In the two minutes of the piece, Bazell does a decent job of highlighting some of the benefits and limitations of genetic genealogy. Just below this video on the main page is a ‘web exclusive’ that continues the couple’s story a bit further.
The second video and third videos are interesting, but are not directly related to genetic genealogy. For anyone that might be interested in more, the Truth About DNA page at MSNBC has a number of interesting links and stories.
Thanks to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and her team at Roots Television, I am able to offer an assortment of incredibly interesting videos about DNA and DNA testing here at The Genetic Genealogist! If you click on the link here you’ll be taken to the new page with the permanent video player (with more videos being added all the time!). This new feature will be readily available to everyone at any time by clicking on the link in the header labeled “Roots Television – The DNA Channel”.
Right now there are videos about three different genetic genealogy success stories. Unfortunately, genetic genealogy has received a bit of bad press lately, and many people are unaware that the tool has been used by hundreds (if not thousands) of people to examine and answer important genealogical questions. As I’ve said many times, genetic genealogy goes best when it goes hand-in-hand with traditional genealogical research.