In the past week there have been so many articles and posts about either genetic genealogy or DTC genetics that Iâ€™m writing them up as a summary post rather than individually.
The New York Times Tackles DTC Genetic Testing
An article in yesterdayâ€™s New York Times by Jane E. Brody â€“ â€œBuyer Beware of Home DNA Testsâ€ â€“ argues that DTC genetic testing is fraught with danger (the article and some of Brody’s arguments are summarized by Grace Ibay of Genetics & Health: â€œSeven Reasons Why Home DNA Tests Are Hypeâ€).Â The author even lumps in genetic genealogy (which has been around for over 9 years now, hardly a â€œnew industryâ€ that has sprung up â€œto cash inâ€ on new science):
Barbara Ameer and Norberto Krivoy of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology (ACCP) have an article (pdf) in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology that promotes regulation of DTC genetic tests (which could conceivably include genetic genealogy tests).Â The Genomics Law Report analyzes the paperâ€™s arguments and concludes with the following:
â€œWithout convincing evidence of the harms of DTC genetic testing, it remains difficult to fully justify more rigorous governmental regulation, or to anticipate its content, structure or ultimate effect, which perhaps explains why such regulation continues to remain just over the horizon.â€
Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings brings the article to my attention (thank you Randy!):
The headline screams “7 Million People Direct Descendants of Smooth-Talking Ancestor” — see the article here in the Science and Technology section of The Onion. It sounds right up the genetic genealogy alley, doesn’t it? Megan, Blaine, Emily – why haven’t you written about this guy? Are 7 million descendants not enough?
A new blog called the Genomics Law Report went live today, promising to provide “news and analysis from the intersection of genomics, personalized medicine and the law.”Â This blog will undoubtedly be a must for anyone interested in personal genetics.Â Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future has already provided a brief summary.
From the introductory post:
“…Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson proudly announces the launch of the Genomics Law Report.Â The Genomics Law Report focuses on the legal implications of important developments in the fields of genomics and personalized medicineÂ â€” including key litigation, legislative, regulatory and policymaking activitiesÂ â€” in order to facilitate understanding ofÂ the complicated and shifting legal landscape governing genomic and personalized medicine commerce and research.”
An article appears in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times (here) about genetic genealogy. Although brief, the article summarizes the sciences behind Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, and focuses on the use of genetic genealogy to explore the “Clark” surname.
With the famous Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemmings case, folks began to realize that DNA testing techniques could give answers and break down brick walls as never before.Â While DNA will never replace standard research and primary documentation, it can be considered a tool to be used hand in hand with standard research.
I highly respect the work of these authors, and I appreciate their efforts to educate the public about these issues. I do, however, wonder why the article was published in Science. The article mostly rehashes arguments found in a number of other articles (including from a very similar 2007 Science article (link) with some of the same authors) without adding any new research or supporting evidence. This is my greatest criticism of this and related articles – much of the hypothesis rests on anecdotal evidence without any corresponding research for support (such as objective social research with genetic ancestry testing customers).
Journalists Peter Aldhous and Michael Reilly write about using DNA obtained from a drinking glass and other sources to â€œhackâ€ someoneâ€™s genome.
In â€œSpecial investigation: How my genome was hacked,â€ the authors use a variety of consumer-available DNA services to prepare and amplify genomic DNA in order to send it away for analysis by deCODEme.Â They used deCODEme, it appears, because 23andMe and Navigenics use saliva collection, and â€œit would be hard to convert [the] amplified DNA sample into a form that closely mimicked saliva.â€Â They did use 23andMe, however, as a control.Â Interestingly, the cost of the entire process was about $1,700 for lab services (preparation and amplification) and $985 for deCODEmeâ€™s service.
Although I can hardly hope to introduce or discuss these recent events any better than Daniel MacArthur has alreadygiven at Genetic Future, I will at least bring this new information to your attention.
Last Wednesday the New York Times printed â€œMy Genome, My Selfâ€, an article written by Stephen Pinker, one of the Personal Genome Projectâ€™s â€œFirst 10.â€Â In the article, Pinker talks about his experience with genome sequencing through the PGP.Â It is especially interesting since Pinker analyzes the issue from the point of view of a psychologist.Â I highly recommend reading this article if you are at all interested in personalized medicine or genetics.
Much of the article discusses the confusing results that are returned by genome/disease analysis, due to our current lack of understanding in this enormous field:
An international team of researchers have concluded that humans entered the Americas from Asia along at least two different paths.Â By studying two rare mtDNA haplogroups found in Native Americans â€“ D4h3 and X2a â€“ the researchers conclude that D4h3 spread into the Americans along the Pacific coast while X2a entered through the ice-free corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets.
From the Press Release:Â â€œSix major genetic lineages account for 95 percent of Native American mtDNA and are distributed everywhere in the Americas,â€ said first author Ugo Perego, director of operations at SMGF. â€œSo we chose to analyze two rare genetic groups and eliminate that â€˜statistical background noise.â€™ In this way, we found patterns that correspond to two separate migration routes.â€
I’m currently in the middle of third-year law school exams, so I thought I’d do a round-up of all the interesting stories I’ve seen over the past week or two.
Holiday Specials on DNA Testing
First, it appears that most of the major genetic genealogy companies are offering special deals for the holidays:
Family Tree DNA announces a holiday sale – FTDNA is offering reducing pricing for customers who are part of or join a DNA project. For example, a 37-marker Y-DNA test is reduced to $119, down from $149.
Ancestry.com announces holiday sale – buy a DNA test between now and December 31st, and you’ll receive 40% off. For example, a 33-marker Y-DNA test is $89.40 (usually $149) and their mtDNA test is $107.40 (usually $179).