Forbes.com published an article today entitled “States Crack Down On Online Gene Tests” that examines New York state’s response to the recent launch of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services by companies such as 23andMe, deCODEme, SeqWright, and Navigenics, as well as the behind-the-scenes companies like Illumina and Affymetrix.
Unfortunately, the regulatory environment surrounding DTC genetic services is hazy at best. From the article:
“Over the last six months, New York State’s Department of Health has sent letters raising the specter of fines and jail time to six online gene-testing firms that offer consumers the ability to peer into their genome to assess their future risk of getting diseases such as cancer, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. Often, it turns out, the services offering these DNA deep-dives are doing so without the involvement of a doctor. That puts them on the wrong side of the law.”
The American Society of Human Genetics announced a press release out today about a study of student essays submitted as entries in the National DNA Day Essay Contest in 2006 and 2007. The ASHG’s education staff examined 500 of the 2,443 essays and found that 55.6% of the essays contained at least one “obvious” misconception, and 20.2% contained two or more misconceptions.
At first glance I was a little concerned about mining these essays – notably submitted by eager students to win a contest – for this type of information, but then I concluded that the authors of the essays must have assumed that they were being evaluated based on the accuracy of their statements. Additionally, the ASHG took careful steps to preserve anonymity.
ThinkGenealogy introduces episode 1 of “Are You Smarter than a Grade School Genealogist?“: “Match your genealogy knowledge against a grade schooler to determine: Are You Smarter than a Grade School Genealogist? In this episode, Nathan, a 4th grader from Arizona introduces DNA for the genealogist.” The episode is just over 4 minutes long and is a great introduction to genetic genealogy.
MSNBC will air a documentary tomorrow evening about the journey of 28-year-old African American David Wilson as he discovers his genealogical roots. Wilson uses both traditional genealogical research as well as DNA testing to learn more about his ancestry. Along the way, Wilson meets another David Wilson, a white 62-year-old descendant of the slaveowners who owned the other’s ancestors. From the Meeting David Wilson website:
“Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MSNBC will premiere â€œMeeting David Wilson,â€ the remarkable and inspiring story of a young manâ€™s reconciliation with his ancestorsâ€™ history as slaves. The world premiere of â€œMeeting David Wilson,â€ on April 11 at 9 p.m. ET will be hosted by â€œTodayâ€ Correspondent Tiki Barber and followed by a 90-minute live discussion of racial issues in America. The live event will be moderated by â€œNBC Nightly Newsâ€ Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams and held at Howard University in Washington, D.C.”
Navigenics, a genome scanning company, officially launches their genome service today – called the “Navigenics Health Compass”, with a cocktail reception in NYC tonight at 6:00PM. Thomas Goetz of Epidemix writes an article in Wired today about some of the differences between Navigenics and other large-scale genome scanning companies.
The launch is also mentioned in an exclusive interview at Genetics and Health with Navigenics’ medical director, Dr. Michael Nierenberg. This piece is the first article in a seven article series, including the future article 6, which discusses some of my favorite things: “Privacy, insurance, GINA, and ethics.” I’ll be sure to link to that article when it comes out. The launch is also discussed over at ScienceRoll.
In my opinion, adding to the conversation about genetic testing is always a good thing.
That being said, my biggest complaint with many of these articles (especially in the popular media) is that they tend to lump together every test that examines DNA. There are different types of genetic testing with different levels of quality control, interpretation, etc. The results, scientific background, and effects of tests offered by large-scale genome scanning companies, clinical entities, direct-to-consumer companies, and pharmacogenetic companies are not the same. When dealing with a readership that does not have a background in genetics (which is probably 99% of the readership), the media should take extra care to note these differences. Lumping every DNA test together does little to properly educate the public.
At 12:01 on April 1, 2082, millions of genealogists around the solar system will be able to instantaneously download every image from the 2010 census into their neural storage chip, and within minutes these images will be linked to the ancestors in their 3D holographic family trees. Almost all of these genealogists will be able to find themselves in these census images and index.
Okay, maybe it’s a little premature to guess about the use of a census that hasn’t even been enumerated yet, but as most genealogists know, census results are the backbone of the genealogical world. Only one census has been released since the advent of the internet. In 2002 the 1930 census was released, and the countdown to the April 2, 2012 release of the 1940 census has already begun.
Here is the abstract of today’s Y-chromosome haplogroup tree paper in Genome Research, I’m still working to get a copy of the actual paper (unfortunately, it’s not open access at this time):
Markers on the non-recombining portion of the human Y chromosomecontinue to have applications in many fields including evolutionarybiology, forensics, medical genetics, and genealogical reconstruction.In 2002, the Y Chromosome Consortium published a single parsimonytree showing the relationships among 153 haplogroups based on243 binary markers and devised a standardized nomenclature systemto name lineages nested within this tree. Here we present anextensively revised Y chromosome tree containing 311 distincthaplogroups, including two new major haplogroups (S and T),and incorporating approximately 600 binary markers. We describemajor changes in the topology of the parsimony tree and providenames for new and rearranged lineages within the tree followingthe rules presented by the Y Chromosome Consortium in 2002.Several changes in the tree topology have important implicationsfor studies of human ancestry. We also present demography-independentage estimates for 11 of the major clades in the new Y chromosometree.
A long-anticipated new version of the Y-Chromosome Tree will be released in the journal Genome Research tomorrow (Wednesday, April 2nd). In the paper, scientists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University use recent SNP data and research to reformulate the familiar Y-chromosome tree (see, for example, the current tree at ISOGG). Here is the full text of the press release.Â The paper should appear here as soon as it is made available by Genome Research tomorrow.
From the press release:
In an article published online today in Genome Research(www.genome.org), scientists have utilized recently described genetic variations on the part of the Y chromosome that does not undergo recombination to significantly update and refine the Y chromosome haplogroup tree. The print version of this work will appear in the May issue of GenomeResearch, accompanied by a special poster of the new tree.