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Finally, GINA Gets Her Day

iStock_000005432570XSmall On April 27, 2007, I wrote “GINA: A Primer“, which was an introduction to the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act. Today, nearly a year later, the bill will most likely be voted on and passed by the Senate, the last step before being handed over to President Bush to sign into law (which he has indicated that he will do). As I wrote last April:

“GINA aims to protect individuals in a variety of different areas. The legislation would prohibit access to genetic information by insurance companies and would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against an applicant based on genetic information, the refusal to submit genetic information, or for have been genetically tested in the past. Additionally, the Act would prohibit employers from using or collecting genetic information to make employment decisions. The Act also establishes a Genetic Nondiscrimination Study Commission that is charged with reviewing new developments in the field of genetics and advising Congress.”

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Genetic Genealogy, Public Databases, and Criminals

The Washington Post has an article entitled “From DNA of Family, a Tool to Make Arrests” about using DNA obtained from family members to search DNA databases or identify relatives as criminals. Here is a summary of the issue from a recent Columbia Law review article available here (pdf):

For years, law enforcement personnel have compared DNA found at crime scenes with that of a convicted offender. Recently, a new technique has
begun to focus on the genetic similarity of biological relatives. Now, if a crime scene sample partially matches the DNA profile of a previous offender, law enforcement can investigate and possibly arrest that person’s family members. This process is called familial DNA testing and will significantly increase the amount of genetic information contained in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which consolidates local, state, and federal DNA databanks into a uniform body of data.

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9

Essay Contest Reveals Misconceptions of High School Students in Genetics Content

The American Society of Human Genetics announced a press release out today about a study of student essays submitted as entries in the National DNA Day Essay Contest in 2006 and 2007. The ASHG’s education staff examined 500 of the 2,443 essays and found that 55.6% of the essays contained at least one “obvious” misconception, and 20.2% contained two or more misconceptions.

At first glance I was a little concerned about mining these essays – notably submitted by eager students to win a contest – for this type of information, but then I concluded that the authors of the essays must have assumed that they were being evaluated based on the accuracy of their statements. Additionally, the ASHG took careful steps to preserve anonymity.

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2

Genetic Genealogy on TV – Meeting David Wilson

MSNBC will air a documentary tomorrow evening about the journey of 28-year-old African American David Wilson as he discovers his genealogical roots. Wilson uses both traditional genealogical research as well as DNA testing to learn more about his ancestry. Along the way, Wilson meets another David Wilson, a white 62-year-old descendant of the slaveowners who owned the other’s ancestors. From the Meeting David Wilson website:

“Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MSNBC will premiere “Meeting David Wilson,” the remarkable and inspiring story of a young man’s reconciliation with his ancestors’ history as slaves. The world premiere of “Meeting David Wilson,” on April 11 at 9 p.m. ET will be hosted by “Today” Correspondent Tiki Barber and followed by a 90-minute live discussion of racial issues in America. The live event will be moderated by “NBC Nightly News” Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams and held at Howard University in Washington, D.C.”

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7

Navigenics Open For Business

Navigenics, a genome scanning company, officially launches their genome service today – called the “Navigenics Health Compass”, with a cocktail reception in NYC tonight at 6:00PM. Thomas Goetz of Epidemix writes an article in Wired today about some of the differences between Navigenics and other large-scale genome scanning companies.

The launch is also mentioned in an exclusive interview at Genetics and Health with Navigenics’ medical director, Dr. Michael Nierenberg. This piece is the first article in a seven article series, including the future article 6, which discusses some of my favorite things: “Privacy, insurance, GINA, and ethics.” I’ll be sure to link to that article when it comes out. The launch is also discussed over at ScienceRoll.

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8

Genetic Testing Under the Microscope

Genetic Testing Under the Microscope Genetic testing has once again come under the microscope, triggered by an article in the journal Science: “A Case Study of Personalized Medicine.”

In my opinion, adding to the conversation about genetic testing is always a good thing.

That being said, my biggest complaint with many of these articles (especially in the popular media) is that they tend to lump together every test that examines DNA. There are different types of genetic testing with different levels of quality control, interpretation, etc. The results, scientific background, and effects of tests offered by large-scale genome scanning companies, clinical entities, direct-to-consumer companies, and pharmacogenetic companies are not the same. When dealing with a readership that does not have a background in genetics (which is probably 99% of the readership), the media should take extra care to note these differences. Lumping every DNA test together does little to properly educate the public.

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1

The New Y-Chromosome Tree to be Released Tomorrow

A long-anticipated new version of the Y-Chromosome Tree will be released in the journal Genome Research tomorrow (Wednesday, April 2nd). In the paper, scientists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University use recent SNP data and research to reformulate the familiar Y-chromosome tree (see, for example, the current tree at ISOGG). Here is the full text of the press release.  The paper should appear here as soon as it is made available by Genome Research tomorrow.

From the press release:

In an article published online today in Genome Research (www.genome.org), scientists have utilized recently described genetic variations on the part of the Y chromosome that does not undergo recombination to significantly update and refine the Y chromosome haplogroup tree. The print version of this work will appear in the May issue of GenomeResearch, accompanied by a special poster of the new tree.

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RootsTelevision Won Four Telly Awards!

Congratulations to RootsTelevision, co-founded by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Marcy Brown, which just won FOUR Telly Awards! The press release is included below. And don’t forget that you can watch RootsTelevision right here at TGG!

RootsTelevision.com Wins Four Telly Awards in Its First Year

PROVO, UT, March 26, 2008 – RootsTelevision.com, an online channel dedicated to all aspects of genealogy and family history, has been recognized in the 29th Annual Telly Awards for four of its original productions. Selected from more than 14,000 shows were “DNA Stories: A Tale of Two Fathers” (documentary), “Heir Jordan: Extreme Genealogy” (entertainment), “Roots Books: Psychic Roots” (talk show), and “Flat Stanley’s Family Tree” (children’s audience).

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Interesting DNA Links – March 26, 2008

Here are a few of the many interesting links from the DNA blogosphere:

  • DNA Testing Firms Eye Consumers (BBC) – yet another article that looks at both sides of the “should you test” debate.
  • Genetic Testing Gets Personal (Washington Post) – a lengthy discussion of many different types of DNA testing.
  • The Scientific Studies/Papers Page at ISOGG – I’ve been meaning to share this one for a while. The page describes methods for obtaining and reading scientific papers about genetic genealogy (or any other scientific topic, for that matter). This is a helpful resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about the science behind genetic genealogy.

6

ISOGG Launches Newsletter

imageThe International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) has just launched a new newsletter. The first edition, March 2008, is available here. This edition discusses GINA, a DNA Success Story by Shoshone, a segment called “The Armchair Geneticist: Where Hobby Produces Science”, What’s New in ISOGG, and a Featured DNA Project.

The newsletter is well-written and has some great graphics, so be sure to subscribe to this FREE newsletter (see the bottom of the newsletter for subscription information).