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.

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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).

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The Six Founding Native American Mothers

BeringiaIf you’re interested in DNA, Native American History, or genetic genealogy, then you’re undoubtedly heard of a new paper from PLoS ONE called “The Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American mtDNA Haplogroups: Implications for Evolutionary and Disease Studies.” The authors, from all around the world (including Ugo A. Perego from SMGF and Antonio Torroni from Italy) analyze over 100 complete Native America mtDNA genomes. From the abstract:

“In this study, a comprehensive overview of all available complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genomes of the four pan-American haplogroups A2, B2, C1, and D1 is provided by revising the information scattered throughout GenBank and the literature, and adding 14 novel mtDNA sequences. The phylogenies of haplogroups A2, B2, C1, and D1 reveal a large number of sub-haplogroups but suggest that the ancestral Beringian population(s) contributed only six (successful) founder haplotypes to these haplogroups.”

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DNA Testing of New York’s New Governor David Paterson

As of Monday the 17th of March, David Paterson will be the Governor of New York State.  Lt. Gov. Paterson recently sat down with Susan Arbetter of WHMT’s NYNOW to discuss the results of his genetic genealogy test results.  Paterson is probably the first governor in the United States to have undergone genetic genealogy testing, and might be the highest government official to do so and then speak openly about it.  These videos are very enjoyable, and it’s interesting to learn more about the future Governor.

In the first segment, Arbetter and Paterson discuss some of Paterson’s genealogy.  They also discuss Paterson’s Y-DNA, which is of European origin.  Arbetter writes on her blog: "On the Lt. Governor’s paternal side, like almost 25% of all African Americans, he’s got white progenitors from England, Ireland and Scotland."

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Controversial Article About Genetic Tests At The Jewish Journal

An article entitled “Gene Test Kits – Can They Lead To Dating Services” by Annalee Newitz discusses the author’s thoughts on the implications of genome sequencing offered by the number of companies that have sprung up in the past year. As a genetic genealogist who is interested in the intersection of law, science, and ethics, I’m always interested in articles that examine the ethical issues associated with affordable genome sequencing. Unfortunately, this article turned out to have little substance behind some serious accusations.

“Snake Oil”?

Newitz begins by mentioning companies 23andMe and deCODEme, both of which recently launched genome scanning services. She then proceeds to her thesis, which is that these services are not only not useful, they are dangerous. She states:

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Knome and Full Genome Sequencing in the New York Times

iStock_000005356657XSmallAmy Harmon, a science writer for the New York Times, writes “Gene Map Becomes a Luxury Item,” an article about Knome (know-me), a sequencing company that will return a customer’s entire genomic sequence for $350,000. Knome was co-founded by Harvard professor George Church, who also directs the Personal Genome Project.

Dan Stoicescu is a retired millionaire who has recently become Knome’s first customer, and only the second person in the world to purchase his entire genomic sequence. According to Dr. Stoicescu, he understands that as of today there is little that his sequence will reveal, but he plans to compare the results of new studies to his genome daily, “like a stock portfolio.”

The article also reveals that Illumina is planning “to sell whole genome sequencing to the ‘rich and famous market’ this year,” says chief executive Jay Flatley. This probably won’t pose much of a problem to Knome – the founders have stated that they are only “offering 20 individuals the opportunity to participate in [their] initial launch phase.”

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The Entrepreneurs Behind Family Tree DNA

The “Starting a Business” section of the online bizjournals site has an article called “Riding the Revolution” that reviews the success of the entrepreneurs behind the popular Family Tree DNA (who recently launched a new company called DNATraits).

The company was founded in April 2000 and is led by president Bennett Greenspan and chief operating officer Max Blankfeld. As the article details, the company has grown from $2.6 million in revenue in 2004 to $12.2 million in 2006, an incredibly impressive climb.

Part of the article describes the company’s future directions and challenges:

“The best solution to building an infrastructure is to be proactive, Blankfeld says, in areas such as human resources, technology and research and development. ‘We hired and keep hiring good people, whether for customer service or the lab; we invested in state-of-the-art equipment for the lab and we keep developing new tests that will respond to our customers’ needs,’ he says.”

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Genetic Genealogy and Black History Month

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With the popular African American Lives series on PBS and numerous news stories and magazine columns, Black History Month often results in increased attention to the genealogy and genetic history of African Americans. I saw a similar increased interest in genetic genealogy last February as well.

The Multiracial Roots of Americans

Diverse has an article entitled “More Americans Are Discovering Their Multiracial Roots.” The article discusses traditional genealogical research, then mentions genetic genealogy – particularly automosal testing:

“One of the more fascinating developments with the new genealogy is the extent to which DNA testing is revealing the multi-racial ancestry of Americans. While there’s some controversy about the claims of DNA testing firms as to how accurately they can match individuals to ancestors from specific communities and ethnic groups, there’s a consensus that proper testing can roughly specify a person’s relative mix of his or her ancestors’ geographic origins.”

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More Interesting Links From The Genetic Genealogist

TGG3 On the heels of my recent post discussing all the interesting information that’s recently entered the blogosphere about genetic genealogy and DNA studies, here are a few more:

Misha Angrist, one of the Personal Genome Project’s “First 10“, wrote an article about the inevitability of DNA sequencing at News Observer. The article is a response to a recent editorial in the NEJM.

VisiGen Biotechnologies announces that IF their technology works as planned, the $1000 genome is just months or a few years away. See more at Genetics and Health and Next Generation Sequencing. Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) has made a similar announcement.

John Hawk’s Anthropology Weblog, “Viking Ancestry, Surnames and Medieval Genetics” examines a recent study in Molecular Biology and Evolution “investigating whether the Viking influence on surnames in England is mirrored by Y chromosomes.” It’s a great post, especially for genetic genealogists.

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