[Update (2/24/12): Some genealogy forums are reporting that callers to Ancestry.com are being told that the autosomal DNA test will publicly launch in approximately 1 month (late March or early April).]
Tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featured African-American actor Blair Underwood. For those not familiar with Who Do You Think You Are, the 1-hour program examines the genealogy of a celebrity, typically focusing on one or two of their most interesting families.
This episode was of particular interest to me because it featured Ancestry.com’s new autosomal DNA testing service, which I’ve written about before (see “Ancestry.com’s Autosomal DNA Product – An Update”). While there wasn’t too much new information about the DNA product in this episode, it was an interesting sneak peek at the service.
In an interview with Business Insider, Anne Wojcicki reported that the company is creating a marketing team. Indeed, I’ve seen at least one marketing position (VP of Marketing) offered by 23andMe in several locations over the past 2 weeks (see here and here, for example). It looks like it would be a very interesting and fun position.
The article also notes that as of October 2011, the 23andMe database officially had 125,000 subscribers.
As I’ve stated many, many times in the past, the future of genetic genealogy is combining test results with both family trees and paper records.
Today, MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA announced a partnership that will bring that future one step closer to reality. MyHeritage will offer a full line of tests (13 in total) through FTDNA, including these basic introductory tests (with discounts – not shown below – for MyHeritage subscribers):
Y-DNA12 (12 Y-STR markers) – $99
mtDNA (HVR1 region) – $99
Family Finder (autosomal test) – $298
The FAQ page for the tests is here (and I note that although they currently do not allow import of test results from other providers, they plan to in the future). I wonder if existing FTDNA test-takers can import their results?
Given MyHeritage’s worldwide reach and enormous membership (62 million members around the world!), it will be interesting to see whether this new partnership expands genetic genealogy testing in other parts of the world, which have been slow to try this technology.
Researchers have recently discovered that Napoleon Bonaparte’s Y-DNA belongs to haplogroup E1b1b1c1* (M34+).
Dominique Vivant Denon was the director-general of French museums under Napoleon. Denon made a reliquary (a container for relics) that included the beard of Henry IV, a tooth from Voltair, and a lock of Bonaparte’s hair. [1. B. Foulon, ed., Dominique-Vivant Denon: L’oeil de Napoléon, exh. cat., Paris: Musée du Louvre (Paris, 2000), 480.] The “Vivant-Denon reliquary” is currently deposited in the Bertrand Museum of Châteauroux, and contains in the “right lateral compartment” a lock of Napoleon’s hair (two of which were used for mtDNA analysis. [2. Lucotte, et al. (2011) Haplogroup of the Y Chromosome of Napoleon the First. J. Mol. Biol. Research, 1:12-19.] Also in the reliquary is three beard hairs belonging to Napoleon.
This morning’s Keynote at Rootstech 2012, was from Ancestry.com and was entitled “Making the Most of Technology to Further the Family History Industry.” Although I was unable to attend Rootstech in person this year, I was able to view the keynote online.
During the panel discussion, we heard from Ken Chahine (LinkedIn profile), the Senior Vice President and General Manager, DNA at Ancestry.com. From his profile at Ancestry.com:
Ken Chahine has served as Senior Vice President and General Manager for Ancestry DNA, LLC since 2011. Prior to joining us he held several positions, including as Chief Executive Officer of Avigen, a biotechnology company, in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah, and at Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals (currently Pfizer). Mr. Chahine also teaches a course focused on new venture development, intellectual property, and licensing at the University of Utah’s College of Law. He earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Michigan, a J.D. from the University of Utah College of Law, and a B.A. in Chemistry from Florida State University.
The genetic genealogy world is abuzz following a recent report in news outlets around the world (including CNN, Seattle PI, Daily Mail, etc) that investigators have used public genetic genealogy DNA databases for leads in a 20-year-old cold case.
In December 1991, 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough was tragically murdered in Federal Way, Washington. Despite an extensive investigation, no suspect has ever been named. Investigators have sketches of a man they believe might have been involved, but there is no name to put to the pictures.
Investigators did find some important evidence however: DNA left at the scene, possibly by Yarborough’s attacker.
Late last year, investigators gave the DNA profile (apparently the Y-DNA profile) to California-based forensic consultant Colleen Fitzpatrick (who I’ve written about before here on TGG). Fitzpatrick, it appears, compared the Y-DNA profile to publicly-available Y-DNA databases, such as Ysearch, in an attempt to identify a potential match for the profile. After identifying potential matches, Fitzpatrick could then potentially identify the surname of the Y-DNA’s donor. For example, if all Bettingers have a particular Y-DNA profile and a sample Y-DNA profile closely matches that particular Y-DNA profile, then it is likely that the parties are either closely or distantly related (on a scale of 10s or 1000s of years), and they could potentially have the same surname.
Yesterday, at Health 2.0 in San Francisco, 23andMe announced that it will be offering sequencing of exomes with 80x coverage for $999. At Exome 80x, 23andMe discusses their test:
Your exome is the 50 million DNA bases of your genome containing the information necessary to encode all your proteins. Informally, you can think of the exome as the DNA sequence of your genes.
Your entire genome is made up of your exome plus other DNA, consisting of three billion bases with repetitive sequences, sequences of unknown function, and DNA that does not code for proteins.
Note that the Exome 80x test is only available to current customers, and is determined on a “first come, first served” basis. Further, test-takers will initially only receive their raw data of 50 million DNA bases at 80x coverage, but 23andMe plans to develop new tools to take advantage of exome sequencing.
Direct-to-consumer DNA testing has led to the re-joining of yet another family.
Y-DNA and autosomal testing by Family Tree DNA has revealed that two NFL players , Xavier Omon (San Francisco 49ers)) and Ogemdi Nwagbuo (San Diego Chargers), are half-brothers. ESPN has a long write-up of the story at “A brothers’ tale for Omon, Nwagbuo.”
Lone Frank, a journalist and author with a Ph.D. in neurobiology, has just published her fourth book, entitled “My Beautiful Genome: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time” (available for pre-order at Amazon). A chapter of the book is available here (pdf).
Frank describes her book thusly: “This book is my very personal take on personal genomics. It chronicles my meetings and interviews with leading scientists and lays out the – somtimes [sic] disquieting – discoveries I make in my own genome.”
The book is described as follows at Amazon:
“Internationally acclaimed science writer Lone Frank swabs up her DNA to provide the first truly intimate account of the new science of consumer-led genomics. She challenges the scientists and business mavericks intent on mapping every baby’s genome, ponders the consequences of biological fortune-telling, and prods the psychologists who hope to uncover just how important our environment really is – a quest made all the more gripping as Frank considers her family’s and her own struggles with depression.”