Following a trend inspired by discussions at the recent Conference for Family Tree DNA Group Administrators, Family Tree DNA has released a new set of updates. This week’s update includes the ability to change the location for your most distant known maternal or paternal ancestors, and the ability to determine which of your Family Finder matches actually match each other. Although this functionality was previously available, it was cumbersome and was not accompanied by any visualization.
From Family Tree DNA:
Weekly Information Technology/Engineering Update (10 Dec 2013)
Matches Maps Locations Clear Button
Some users have requested the ability to clear their stored map coordinates for their most distant known maternal or paternal ancestors. We have added a Remove Location button to Step 3 of the Update Most Distant Ancestor’s Location wizard.
Yesterday, 23andMe provided an update on its blog (see “23andMe Provides An Update Regarding FDA’s Review”) about how it will respond to the FDA’s recent warning letter. In a nutshell, the company will continue to sell the same Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) kits, but new customers will only have access to ancestry-related genetic information and tools, and to their raw data. No health-related information will be provided, for now. Existing customers will continue to have access to all tools, including health-related information.
I’ll note that this is exactly what I predicted would happen in my blog post about the FDA warning letter (see “The FDA Orders 23andMe to Stop Marketing Medical Tests”). You heard it here first! It’s really the most logical approach while 23andMe communicates with the FDA.
So by now you’ve no doubt heard that on November 22, 2013, the Direct-to-Consumer genetics testing company 23andMe received a uncharacteristically biting letter from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), a federal agency that protects public health by monitoring and regulating various products such as food, medicine, and supplements.
In the letter, the FDA expresses its belief that the 23andMe Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) is a medical product because “it is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body.” Accordingly, the FDA concludes, the PGS requires “premarket approval or de novo classification” by the FDA.
The 9th International Genetic Genealogy Conference for Administrators is currently being held by Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas. As they try to do every year, there have been several buzz-worthy announcements already.
Family Tree DNA has announced the new Big Y test:
Here are some of the basics about the new Big Y test:
- 10 million bp sequenced
- ~25,000 SNPs
- Cost = $495 until December 1, 2013, then $695.
The “Y-DNA SNP testing chart” page at the ISOGG wiki has already been updated to reflect the Big Y test.
For more about the test, see these great posts:
“9th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy – Day 1
” – at Ancestor Central by Jennifer Zinck
“The new Big Y Test from Family Tree DNA
Understanding the complexities of autosomal DNA can be very challenging for newbies.
However, there are a few basic tenets that I believe can help these newbies. These tenets are essentially tools that newbies can use to analyze an autosomal DNA problem for themselves.
For example, here are the two very basic tenets that I typically introduce in my autosomal DNA lectures especially for the newbies:
- You only have to go back about 5 generations to start losing ancestors from your Genetic Family Tree.
So many of the issues that newbies run into can be resolved or prevented through understanding of these concepts.
The Coop Lab
The lab of Graham Coop, an associate professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis, maintains a blog where they often discuss genetics. Today they published an interesting blog post entitled “How much of your genome do you inherit from a particular ancestor? In the post, they perform a handful of different analyses using data they had for one generation of transmissions which was compounded over multiple generations.
23andMe today launched the African Ancestry Project, which has been in the works for some time now. Participants in this project will receive 1 free 23andMe kit.
The project aims to shed light on the health and ancestry of people with African ancestry, an underrepresented group in almost every database (both genealogical and health-related.
Participants in the African Ancestry Project will receive 1 free kit per family, if they are eligible. Eligible individuals must:
- Have four (4) grandparents from the same sub-Saharan African country;
- Be at least 18 years of age;
- Have Internet access, be willing to take an online survey about ancestry and provide a saliva sample;
- Live in the United States in a state that allows 23andMe shipping. (i.e., not Maryland)
In 1991, German tourists in the Alps discovered the mummified remains of a man who died approximately 5,000 years ago. Named Ötzi, the remains have been studied extensively and have revealed a wealth of information about life in this region.
Of note to genetic genealogists, Ötzi’s DNA has also been the subject of extensive analysis. In February 2012, sequencing of Ötzi’s full genome was announced (see here and here) which revealed, among other things, that the Iceman probably had brown eyes, belonged to blood group O, and was lactose intolerant. He may also have had Lyme disease, as the genome of the infectious agent Borrelia burgdorferi was also identified in the sequencing effort.
Ötzi’s Y-DNA belongs to a subclade of Haplogroup G defined by the SNPs M201, P287, P15, L223 and L91 (G-L91). As far as I know, he has not yet been typed for any of the subclades downstreaming from G-L91. More information can be found at the G-L91 page of the Haplogroup G Project, and elsewhere online.
23andMe and co-founder Anne Wojcicki are featured in the cover story of the November issue of Fast Company entitled “Anne Wojcicki Is The Most Daring CEO In America.”
Accompanying the cover story are a number of different online articles, including the following:
Article #1 – “Inside 23andMe Founder Anne Wojcicki’s $99 DNA Revolution” by Elizabeth Murphy (not her real name – it was changed to protect the identity of her adopted daughter, who 23andMe testing revealed has an extremely high propensity for Alzheimer’s disease)
Article #2 – “Behind the Scenes of the Ad Campaign for 23andMe’s $99 DNA Test” – a brief look at how 23andMe is trying to recruit 1 million new customers. The article features a handful of tv spots, and reveals that many of the actors took a 23andMe test.
There has been a great deal of coverage this week of the new patent issued to genetic testing company 23andMe. U.S. Pat No. 8,543,339 is entitled “Gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations” and is directed to methods for predicting traits for a child based on the DNA of candidate parents, and selecting a preferred donor based at least in part on the prediction.
Some of the coverage (including an editorial in Genetics in Medicine) has suggested that the methods are “hugely ethically controversial” and “‘GATTICA’-like,” and could lead to a “design-your-own-baby DNA test” and “designer babies.” Another popular genetic genealogy blogger, Roberta Estes, also addressed the patent on her blog earlier this week (“23andMe Patents Technology for Designer Babies”).
Published today at MATTER is “Uprooted,” an in-depth look at genetic genealogy and DNA testing. The article contains numerous quotes from several names you’ll recognize, including CeCe Moore and me. Much of the story focuses on genealogist Cheryl Whittle and her roller-coaster quest to find her biological roots using DNA testing. From the preview of the roughly 10,000 word article:
“In Issue 11 of MATTER, award-winning writer Virginia Hughes tells Cheryl’s story, and describes how the twin revolutions of the internet and DNA testing have turned genealogy into a privacy minefield. After all, your genetic code is as personal as it gets — yet thanks to the web, you are no longer the only person who gets to control it.”