Since late 2007, several “direct-to-consumer” or “DTC” genetic testing products have entered the marketplace, many of which offered some degree of autosomal ancestry analysis (including 23andMe, deCODEme, and Pathway Genomics, among others).
In early 2010, genetic ancestry testing company Family Tree DNA announced that it would begin offering a new genetic genealogy product (see “Announcing Family Finder – An Autosomal Test From Family Tree DNA”). The new product, called “Family Finder,” is one of only a very few autosomal genetic genealogy tests available to consumers.
The Family Finder test uses an Affymetrix microarray chip that includes over 500,000 pairs of locations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in your autosomal DNA. Once the SNPs are analyzed, FTDNA detects linked blocks of DNA that indicate a common ancestor. The number and size of these linked blocks is used to determine how recently or closely two people are related. From the Family Finder FAQ … Click to read more!
On May 6, 2010, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany presented the world with a draft of the genome sequence of the Neanderthal (press release here (pdf) and full article here (free), NYT article here). As part of the announcement, the team presented their conclusion that 1% to 4% of the genome of non-Africans is derived from Neanderthals:
“An initial comparison of the two sequences has brought some exciting discoveries to light. Contrary to the assumption of many researchers, it would appear that some Neandertals and early modern humans interbred. According to the researchers’ calculations, between one and four percent of the DNA of many humans living today originate from the Neandertal. ‘Those of us who live outside Africa carry a little Neandertal DNA in us,’ says Svante Pääbo. Previous tests carried out on the DNA of Neandertal mitochondria, which represents just a tiny part of the whole genome, had not found any evidence of such interbreeding or ‘admixture.’”
Once this study came out, I knew it was only a matter of time before companies began offering tests that examined the percent of Neanderthal contribution to a test-taker’s genome.
The Neanderthal Index
In May 2010, DNA Consultants began offering a test called the Neanderthal Index. Priced at USD $90.00, the test purports to “estimate how much Neanderthal is in your ancestry.” From the test description:
“Created in response to the phenomenal interest generated by the revelation in scientific journals on May 8, 2010 that most humans are part Neanderthal (Green et al), our autosomal DNA Neanderthal Index can be added to your DNA Fingerprint Test or DNA Fingerprint Plus. It reports any strong matches you have with populations identified as Archaic, those preserving the earliest earmarks of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). The stronger the match the higher the likelihood that your ancestors gave you Neanderthal genes.”
The site also provides an FAQ page, and a sample test result (pdf). The test returns results on a scale of 0.1 to … Click to read more!
I was recently asked to participate in a discussion with Dr. Deb Neklason, Ph.D on the satellite radio channel “Doctor Radio,” hosted by Dr. Ira Breite. We largely spoke about a 2008 study, led by Dr. Neklason (who I thought did a wonderful job of explaining the science and results in layman’s terms during the show), in which it was concluded that a gene that often causes cancer traces back to a Mr. and Mrs. George Fry who came to America in 1630. I have a write-up of the study here (http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2008/01/03/a-single-colon-cancer-gene-traced-to-1630-the-future-of-genetic-genealogy/). There was also some brief discussion of mtDNA testing and the future of personal genomics.
Here is Dr. Breite’s description of this morning’s show:
“Colon Cancer is extremely common in the United States: it is the number two cancer killer of both men and women. Some families have a mutation which makes relatives who have it have an even higher risk than the general population. Now it turns out that this gene may have literally come over, if not with the Mayflower, then pretty darn close to that! Join me and Dr. Deb Neklason, Ph.D and Dr. Blaine Bettinger as we talk about how a single mutation in a single gene in a single person from 1630 has led to thousands of colon cancer cases today.”
For new visitors from the show looking for more information, feel free to browse the archives and featured articles here at The Genetic Genealogist.
I’m … Click to read more!