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Genetic Genealogy Tidbits

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This week I was quoted in the November issue of Wired Magazine about the use of autosomal DNA for genetic genealogy testing.

A Controversy

At “Adoptees use DNA to find surname,” Larry Moran at Sandwalk comments on my recent articles (here, here, and here) regarding the use of genetic genealogy (or genetic sequencing in general) test results to find unknown biological parents.  Although Dr. Moran accuses me of being a “cheerleader” who is blind to any ethical concerns associated with using DNA to find biological parents, he obviously didn’t do his research!  Less than a month ago I wrote this on the blog:

“For most people, being able to identify your own ancestors based on your own DNA poses few if any ethical dilemmas. However, what if your neighbor or your stalker or even law enforcement wants to use a sample of your DNA to identify your ancestors? Additionally, what if your living ancestor doesn’t wish to be identified? Does the ancestor have that right, or is possible identification through genetic genealogy just one of the consequences of parenting a child anonymously or simply having sex with another person?”

In response to a write-up at Genome Technology, Discovering Biology in a Digital World wrote “Hey sperm donors, could DNA testing be hazardous to your wealth?“.

Blending Genetic Genealogy and Personal Genomics

Often, articles that discuss both genetic genealogy and whole-genome scans (like those offered by deCODEme and 23andMe) blur the different services together and completely confuse the reader (usually because the author is confused!).  However, in “Will Technology Cure Health Care — Or Kill It?,” journalist Alistair Croll does a good job:

“Testing can get as low as $60, as Familybuilder recently showed. Founded in 2007, the company received a $1.5M Series A funding from DN Capital in February 2008. While the company only analyzes enough DNA to trace genealogy, it stores the raw samples for two years, so CEO Ilya Nikolayev hasn’t ruled out the possibility of selling additional analysis to customers in future.”

Russ Altman, a scientific advisor for 23andMe, recently wrote a blog post about his first “post-genomic moment.”  After reading an article about the possible association between a SNP and muscle breakdown due to statins, Altman logged into his 23andMe account and examined his read at that SNP.  There’s also a post about Altman’s experience at The Spittoon, 23andMe’s corporate blog.

The Personal Genome Project

The “First 10,” the first 10 participants in the Personal Genome Project, met on Monday the 20th to review the results of their genetic sequencing.  For more information, see a blog post by participant Misha Angrist, and Jason Bobe has a great round-up of articles at “Press coverage on the Personal Genome Project’s 2nd annual meeting at Harvard Medical School.”

Family Tree DNA Automates

Family Tree DNA is using new automated technology to manage their samples.  For more info, see “Family Tree DNA automates sample management” and “Geneology Testing Firm Adopts Tecan Sample-Management Systems” (but ignore the glaring spelling error!).

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

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