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Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation Collects Mongolian DNA


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A news release announces the completion of a DNA collection project by SMGF (Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation) in Mongolia. The goal of the project is to study the descendants of ancient nomads from the Eurasian steppes. The collection was performed in conjunction with the National University of Mongolia and represents “the most comprehensive [DNA collection project] in the history of Mongolia, incorporating all of the country’s geographic regions and major ethnic populations.” In total, more than 3,000 DNA samples and pedigree charts were obtained from 24 different ethnic groups.

According to the news release, the “global fascination with Mongolian icons such as Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun” played a role in promoting the project:

“For many centuries, Mongolians have held an ongoing fascination in genealogy, spurred in part by reverence for ancestors and for oral traditions – with some family and clan names stretching back as far as the 10th Century (AD). Under Genghis Khan’s rule in the 13th Century, Mongols invaded Eurasian territory, then ruled there for more than two centuries. In the 20th century the then-USSR gained political control of Mongolia and its leaders systematically worked to eradicate Mongolian national identity – especially the Khan connection – executing or imprisoning an estimated 100,000 Mongols between 1922 and 1940. In recent years, however, there has been a renaissance of Mongolian national identity, accompanied by a widespread search for Mongolian genetic roots – which the SMGF-NUM partnership will continue to foster.”

… Click to read more!

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Facts & Genes Newsletter From Family Tree DNA

A few days ago I received the latest Facts & Genes Newsletter from Family Tree DNA.  The newsletter is available on their website and includes the following tidbits:

  1. In August the company sent out their 100,000th test kit;
  2. The website now has a site map;
  3. The company was named one of the 100 fastest growing companies in Houston, and;
  4. The newsletter also has a brief segment entitled “Genetic Genealogy: Where to Start“, which might be interesting to some of you who are new to genetic genealogy!

… Click to read more!

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Interview with Dana Waring, A Founder of the Personal Genetics Education Project

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dana Waring, a member of Ting Wu‘s lab at Harvard and one of the creators/caretakers of the pgEd, the Personal Genetics Education Project. It was a fascinating conversation about the future of personal genetics and the dire need for more education of the public in this field. You can see a few recent mentions of the pgEd from other members of the DNA Network – EyeonDNA, and genomeboy.com.

I was very interested in Dana’s project, and she was willing to share more information with me and my readers via the following email interview:
TGG: How did you get involved with the Personal Genetics Education Project?

DW: The Personal Genetics Education Project is based in the Wu lab at Harvard Medical School. The main research focus of the lab is in a branch of epigenetics called homology effects, … Click to read more!

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J. Craig Venter and Personal Genetics

Wow, what a day for personal genetics. Yesterday, J. Craig Venter’s diploid genome was released (I’m not sure where the sequence is, but the paper is available at PLoS Biology, a OPEN ACCESS journal!).

I know that many people have their gripe about Venter, but seeing a story about personal genetics on the front page of CNN is important. It educates people and helps alleviate fears about genomic sequencing. I think it’s a great opportunity for the field. Here’s a few quotes from the CNN story:

“Venter has just published almost all 6 billion letters, or 96 percent, of his own personal genetic code in the journal PLoS Biology. From diseases to personality traits, it’s the most comprehensive human genome to date. Venter’s gene map provides a new understanding of his genetic destiny, according to the DNA inherited from both his father and his mother.

Venter says it’s just the beginning of a new era of personal genomics. “For the first time, we can answer almost any question of what’s genetic, what’s the environment. Our genes can tell us probabilities of what might happen and give us a chance to do something about it.”

There are also some quotes from George Church, leader of the Personal Genome Project:

“Dr. George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, is working on a DNA test that would identify for the consumer 1 percent of his or her DNA at a cost of $1,000. He says that someday soon, people may be checking their DNA maps as they do their stock portfolios — constantly adjusting to everyday developments and new gene discoveries.

“You’ll have all that information sitting at your desk and as the information flows in you’ll say, ‘I only want to know things of certain type. I don’t want to know about Alzheimer’s, or I don’t want to know about heart disease, or I do, or I want to know about everything, as soon as it comes in,” says Church.

It’s a habit Venter already follows. As more genes are discovered, he says, he constantly checks his own genome.”

For all the genetic genealogists out there, our habit will undoubtedly be comparing our genomes in order to find or identify potential relatives. Sure, curing disease and improving health is important, but … Click to read more!

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The Early Stages of the Genetic Genealogy Revolution


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It’s always been my belief that personal genetics (inexpensive whole-genome analysis) will bring about some exciting changes in the field of genetic genealogy. One of the biggest areas of change will undoubtedly be in the area of autosomal genetic testing. (Remember that autosomal testing examines nuclear DNA, which is DNA other than mtDNA, Y-DNA, or X chromsomes).

A new study takes one of the first steps in the genetic genealogy revolution by examining SNP variations in four self-identified American populations – European, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, and African American (see reference below). “These population labels were used, despite the controversy surrounding the correspondence between notions of race and population … Click to read more!

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dnaancestry beta From Ancestry.com

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As I mentioned back in June,  Ancestry.com has teamed up with Sorenson Genomics to offer DNA testing.  Today I received the following notification announcing the beta launch of dnaancestry.com.  A Y-DNA test with 33 markers will be $149, while a Y-DNA test with 46 markers will be $199 (if you look at the sample results page, you’ll see a list of the 46 markers tested).  An mtDNA test will be $179, although the exact testing parameters for the mtDNA test are unclear at this point (the website only states that HVR1 and HVR2 will be sequenced).

Introducing DNA Ancestry
We want you to be one of the first to know we’re adding a powerful new dimension to genealogical research by integrating the world’s largest online collection of historical records and family trees … Click to read more!

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DNA From the Dead: DNA Banking is Legal, but is it Ethical? Part II


Yesterday we saw that many funeral directors offer DNA retrieval and storage as one of their services. Today, we’ll look into the WHY of DNA storage, and bring up some of the ethical questions it raises.

Why store DNA from the recently deceased?

Undoubtedly, someone who has never heard of DNA retrieval and storage will probably ask WHY we should store a dead relative’s DNA.

The reason most commonly quoted is that the DNA can be used in the future to identify inherited traits such as genetic disorders and other phenotypic characteristics. In 2006, the New England Historic Genealogical Society published an article by Edwin M. Knights, M.D. entitled “DNA Banking for Medical Information.” In the article, Dr. Knights gives a number of reasons for banking DNA from both living … Click to read more!

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DNA From the Dead: DNA Banking is Legal, but is it Ethical? Part I

The field of genomics is exploding.Every day, the mysteries of our genome are revealed and we learn more and more about the power of DNA.Soon, with affordable whole-genome sequencing, we will be able to analyze our own personal genome for clues about our ancestry, our propensity for disease, and insight into our body and our personality.In fact, this is already well underway.

Undoubtedly, each of us will be faced with a decision in our lifetime – do we want to learn the secrets of our genome, or do we want to live without that knowledge, as all of our ancestors have done for millions of years.This decision is a personal one, and at this point I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer.

But what about those who are unable to make that decision?For example, an infant is unable to give consent for genetic testing, but many states in the USroutinely … Click to read more!

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Native American mtDNA from Chewing Gum and Textiles

A study in the September Journal of Field Archaeology analyzes mtDNA that was isolated from Native American aprons and from quids – chewed plant material.  From an article in science:

“The quids and aprons belonged to a vanished tribe that archaeologists call the Western Basketmakers. Between about 500 B.C.E. and 500 C.E., they lived in caves and rock shelters in what is now southern Utah and northern Arizona.”

“They pulled mitochondrial DNA from 48 quids and from 18 aprons that had been stained with what was likely menstrual blood. Then they scanned the DNA for various molecular markers called haplogroups, which appear in different frequencies in different parts of the world.”

The researchers discovered that 14% of the samples belonged to Haplogroup A.  They also point out that museum and university collections have many sources of Native American DNA (such as quids, textiles, and … Click to read more!

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GINA: An Update II

I’ve written about GINA at least twice before.  GINA, or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, is a piece of legislation that would protect individuals from discrimination based upon their genetic information by employers or insurance companies.

I just learned at the PCD Foundation Blog that a “hold” has been placed upon GINA in the Senate.  The bill flew through the House of Representatives, and President Bush has said that he would sign the bill into law, but it is now stuck in the Senate.  Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., A Republican from Oklahoma, has placed the Hold on the bill.  According to Senator Coburn’s Wikipedia article:

“According to the Boston Globe, Tom Coburn has blocked passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a bill that would prevent health insurers and employers from using genetic information in decisions of employment or insurability. Senator Coburn objected to provisions in the bill that allow discrimination based on genetic information from embryos and fetuses. Recently, the Boston Globe stated that the embryo loophole has been closed, and that Tom Coburn is reevaluating his opposition to the bill.”

The Boston Globe story is here.  There are also press releases (here and here) on Senator Coburn’s website that state his position.  And finally, the most recent information is from … Click to read more!