Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings (â€œI’m Puzzled by DNA Claims on â€˜Faces of Americaâ€™â€) writes about the fourth and last episode of â€œFaces of America,â€ a PBS documentary series investigating the ancestry of several famous people in America. This fourth episode included several different types of genetic genealogy to examine the ancestral origins and relatedness of the showâ€™s members.
1. Whole Genome Sequencing by Knome
The first type of genetic genealogy was whole-genome sequencing by Knome of Henry Louis Gates and his father. This analysis examined Henryâ€™s (â€œSkipâ€™sâ€) genome for medical conditions and physical traits, and also compared his DNA to his fatherâ€™s, thereby allowing them to deduce the entire DNA contribution from his deceased mother. This segment was actually quite moving, as Dr. Gates was able to establish this intimate connection to the mother that he and his father obviously missed very much.
Late last fall, Family Tree Magazine requested nominations for the best genealogy blogs, and then opened voting for the nominated list.Â Yesterday, they announced the winners of the voting.Â Diane Haddad wrote about the announcement on the Genealogy Insider blog, and Maureen Taylor wrote the article that will appear in the May issue of Family Tree Magazine: “Fab Forty.”
I am very pleased and honored to announce that TGG was selected as one of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs, in the category of genetic genealogy. I would like to thank everyone who nominated and voted for me.Â I have been very fortunate over the last few years to interact with a fascinating array of readers, and I am thankful for every one of them.
When I started blogging in February 2007 (I just recently counted my third anniversary of TGG!), there were very few blogs in the genetic genealogy space.Â Today there are a number of interesting and well-written genetic genealogy blogs.Â See my recent round-up at “10 Great Blogs for Genetic Genealogists.“Â Each of these blogs is well worth adding to your reading list.
Daniel Vorhaus of the Genomics Law Report is also a member of the steering committee of the GET (â€œGenomes, Environments, Traits) Conference 2010.This unique conference, to be held on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 will gather together some of the biggest names in personal genomics, as well as most of the limited number of the people who have released their entire genomes to the public.Tickets for the conference go on sale today here.
As part of the GET Conference 2010, the new BioWeatherMap initiative will officially launch.According to the projectâ€™s website, BioWeatherMap is â€œa global, grassroots, distributed environmental sensing effort aimed at answering some very basic questions about the geographic and temporal distribution patterns of microbial life. Utilizing the power of high-throughput, low cost DNA sequencing and harnessing the drive of an enlightened public we propose a new collaborative research approach aimed at generating a steady stream of environmental samples from many geographic locations to produce high quality data for ongoing discovery and surveillance.â€
In October 2008, I reviewed an article by Dr. Alondra Nelson in the journal Social Studies of Science entitled â€œBio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestryâ€ (Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 759-783).Â The article was about the complex interpretation of the results of genetic genealogy testing by African-Americans and black British.Â Dr. Nelson is Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia University in NY.
On Friday, an article by Dr. Nelson appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Henry Louis Gates’s Extended Family,” which is an introduction and review of the current PBS documentary miniseries Faces of America. Regarding the genetic testing aspect of the show, Nelson writes:
Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe, has started a new blog entitled The Life & Times of Lilly Mendel. I’m looking forward to some interesting reading as Linda establishes the Brainstorm Research Foundation dedicated to the study of Alzheimer’s disease.
I once told someone that in addition to learning about their ancient origins (such as Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups), many genetic genealogists would ideally like to match every portion of their DNA with the contributing ancestor.Â Although this might seem to be beyond the reach of current genetic ancestry testing, it has actually already begun.Â The family compare function of 23andMe, for example, is already being used by genetic genealogists for just this purpose; people who have matching DNA segments can compare ancestry and attempt to identify the ancestor who might have contributed the DNA.
For obvious reasons, medical geneticists have for many years been using genealogy to trace founder mutations in populations.Â For example, in 2008 scientists traced a colon cancer gene in the United States to a Mr. and Mrs. George Fry who arrived in the New World around 1630 (see A Single Colon Cancer Gene Traced to 1630).
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€