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You and the $1000 Genome – Part III: Ethical Issues

In Part I and Part II of the “You and the $1000 Genome” series we examined the history of the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics and the success of the International HapMap Project. Today we’ll talk about some of the ethical issues associated with efficient and inexpensive genome sequencing. The value of whole genome sequencing will only be realized if individuals believe they have complete and legal control over their genetic information. I am greatly indebted to a thorough analysis of this issue by John A. Robertson at the University of Texas School of Law (“The $1000 Genome: Ethical and Legal Issues in Whole Genome Sequencing of Individuals (pdf).” 2003 The American Journal of Bioethics 3(3):InFocus). Note that this analysis is not intended to constitute answers to any of the ethical questions – it is only meant to be part of the discourse.

The ethics surrounding the X … Click to read more!

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You and the $1000 Genome – Part II: The International HapMap Project

In Part I of the “You and the $1000 Genome” series we examined the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, a $10 million purse for the group that can sequence 100 genomes in 10 days for no more than $10,000/genome with an error rate below 0.001%. With today’s technology this goal is still a few years away.

But do we need an entire genomic sequence to obtain all the relevant medical information that our DNA contains? After all, 99.9% of my DNA is exactly the same as everyone else’s! Why sequence that 99.9% over and over and over if the results are the same every time? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just sequence and then decode the 0.1%?

Sequencing that 0.1% is the goal of the International HapMap Project. HapMap stands for “Haplotype Map”, and those of you who are genetic genealogists will instantly … Click to read more!

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23andMe and Google

gumbert_mid.pngSpeaking of the $1000 genome, if you haven’t visited the 23andMe main page recently, you’ll probably want to check it out. The site has been redesigned and includes links to an About page and a Press Release page, a Contact page, and the Jobs page. I love the fact that the job benefits include “free genotyping for you and a family member or friend”!!

The front page also has a new description of the company:

“23andMe is a privately held company developing new ways to help you make sense of your own genetic information.

“Even though your body contains trillions of copies of your genome, you’ve likely never read any of it. Our goal is to connect you to the 23 paired volumes of your own genetic blueprint (plus your mitochondrial DNA), bringing you personal insight into ancestry, genealogy, and … Click to read more!

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You and the $1000 Genome – Part I: The Archon X PRIZE for Genomics

Over the next week and a half I will be examining the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, a challenge from the Archon X PRIZE Foundation to foster the development of efficient and inexpensive genomic sequencing. Not only will the X PRIZE for Genomics change the face of medicine, but it will also have an ENORMOUS impact on the field of genetic genealogy, which we’ll discuss in Part IV of the series. Stay tuned for all the information you need to know about the prize, and if you have any thoughts or questions please leave a comment!

History of the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics:
In 2003 the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation announced a $500,000 Genomic Technology Prize that would be awarded to an the group whose technology significantly enhanced “the field of high throughput DNA sequencing by enabling a human genome … Click to read more!

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Famous DNA Review, Part II – Genghis Khan


In 2003, researchers from around the world released a paper that suggested that 8% of all Mongolian males have a common Y chromosome because they are the descendants of Genghis Khan (See “The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols,” 2003, Zerjal, et. al., American Journal of Human Genetics, 72: 717-721). The researchers examined the Y chromosome variability of over 2000 people from different regions in Asia and discovered a grouping of closely related lines. The cluster is believed to have originated about 1,000 years ago in Mongolia and its distribution coincides with the boundaries of the Mongol Empire.
Genghis Khan’s empire (he ruled from 1206 – 1227) stretched across Asia from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea and was reportedly extremely … Click to read more!

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The DNA Network

the_dna_network_logo1.jpgThe Genetic Genealogist has been invited to be a member of the new genetics blogging group The DNA Network, founded by Rick Vidal of My Biotech Life and Hsien Lei of Eye on DNA. The group is “a network (double helix?) composed of life science enthusiasts with specialized views in areas such as genetics, biology, biotechnology, health care, and much more.”

Not only is the network a great way to discover new blogs, but it is an opportunity to stay current on events and developments in the field of genetics. The following blogs are currently members of the network:

My Biotech Life
DNA Direct Talk
Epidemix
Epigenetics News
evolgen
Eye on DNA
Gene Sherpas: Personalized Medicine and You
Genomicron
henry: the human evolution news relay (genetics)
Mary Meets Dolly
Microarray and Bioinformatics
Omics! Omics!
ScienceRoll
And me, The Genetic Genealogist.
If you’d like to subscribe, the feed is available … Click to read more!

Famous DNA Review, Part I – Thomas Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, has been at the center of a DNA controversy for over 200 years. In September 1802 journalist James T. Callender wrote in Richmond Reporter that Jefferson had for many years “kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is Sally [Hemmings]. The name of her eldest son is Tom. His features are said to bear a striking though sable resemblance to those of the president himself.” Although these rumors had reportedly already been passed around quietly, this article spread the rumor far and wide, setting off many years of debate.
In 1998 analysis of a male descendant of Jefferson’s paternal uncle showed that Jefferson’ Y chromosome belonged to haplogroup K2 (Thomas Jefferson did not have any male … Click to read more!

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Are aboriginal Australians and New Guineans the modern-day descendants of the extinct species Homo erectus?

Some scientists have hypothesized that Australian aboriginals received a portion of their DNA from an ancient hominid species called Homo erectus, which for a short time was contemporaneous with modern man. A recent study published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences) set out to answer this question by analyzing mtDNA and Y-chromosome samples from aboriginals.

A total of 172 mtDNA and 522 Y-chromosome previously published and new sequences from aboriginal Australians and New Guineans were analyzed for mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation and were compared to the current world haplogroup tree. All of the mtDNA sequences were members of the M and N founder branches, and all of the Y-chromosome sequences fell into the C and F founder … Click to read more!

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Can Scientists Have a Sense of Humor?

Scienceroll just posted a hilarious video called the “DNA-ting Game“, an advertisement for Caliper Life Sciences which is a spoof on 1970′s “The Dating Game.” If you think science humor is funny, you’ll love this video. I highly recommend you go check it out. For a little background information, they talking about analyzing DNA samples using gel electrophoresis. The video is actually an elaborate advertisement for an alternative to electorphoresis.

There are some other funny videos I’ve seen as well, including the great advertising campaign from Biocompare. There are three commercials – here, here, and here. They’re another example of biotechnology companies jumping into this field of advertising. In our lab we typically made decisions based … Click to read more!

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Native American DNA in England

I was very surprised when genetic testing revealed that my maternal lineage was not European. I’m sure, however, that my surprise was nothing compared to that of two British women who recently discovered that their maternal lineage was of Native American descent (the original article is available through the BBC).

Doreen Isherwood and Anne Hall learned that their mtDNA belonged to Haplogroups A and C, traditional Native American Haplogroups. As the BBC story explains, Native Americans were brought back to England as early as the 1500s.

Said Ms. Hall: “I was thrilled to bits. It was a very pleasant surprise. To have Native American blood is very exotic.”

Thanks to … Click to read more!