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Genomics Law Report – A New Blog

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.”  This blog will undoubtedly be a must for anyone interested in personal genetics.  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.  The Genomics Law Report focuses on the legal implications of important developments in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine — including key litigation, legislative, regulatory and policymaking activities — in order to facilitate understanding of the complicated and shifting legal landscape governing genomic and personalized medicine commerce and research.”

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Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation to Protect DNA Samples Using Biomatrica’s Room Temperature Storage

From today’s press release:

Biomatrica today announced that the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) will use Biomatrica’s SampleMatrix room temperature storage technology to archive its DNA samples.

SMGF will use the SampleMatrix technology in place of ultra-low-temperature freezers for the long-term storage of all newly collected samples. In addition, SMGF will move its collection of previously archived samples from freezers to room temperature storage.

“SMGF has an extremely valuable collection of DNAs, and we have been very concerned about the long-term storage and preservation of the collection,” said Scott Woodward, executive director of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. “Biomatrica has developed a product that we feel addresses our concerns in a very practical, economical and secure way.”

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“Can DNA tests help your genealogical inquiries?” in the Asheville Citizen-Times

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.  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.

via citizen-times.com and familybuilder

Posted via web from Blaine Bettinger’s Lifestream

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A Critique of Genetic Ancestry Testing in Science Magazine

Gold StandardFive bioethicists have published a paper in today’s issue of Science – The Illusive Gold Standard in Genetic Ancestry Testing (paid subscription required) – calling for government regulation of genetic ancestry testing (aka genetic genealogy). There is an accompanying press release: Stanford Bioethicist and Colleagues Call for Federal Regulation of Genetic Ancestry Testing (another press release is available here).

Overall Thoughts

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).

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Family Tree DNA Discovers Y-DNA Signature That Might Represent the Prophet Mohammed

DNA An article in the United Arab Emirate newspaper The National (wikipedia) does a terrific job of highlighting recent research from Family Tree DNA.  The story – “DNA could illuminate Islam’s lineage” – discusses research that has attempted to elucidate the Y-DNA signature of Mohammed.  Although Mohammed did not have a son, he had a daughter who married her paternal second cousin, thus passing to Mohammed’s grandchildren the same Y-DNA.  From the article:

“For almost 1,600 years, the title Sharif, Sayyed, or Habib has been bestowed on Muslims who have been able to trace their roots back to the Prophet Mohammed through intricate family trees, oral histories and genealogical records. But now an American DNA lab says it may have identified the DNA signature of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, and perhaps the prospect of a direct, more accurate means of confirming or identifying such a connection.”

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“You Can’t Handle the Truth” – an Article Arguing Against Increased Federal Regulation of DTC Genetic Testing

Alzheimer disease A recent article by Ronald Bailey in reasononline asks whether genetic tests actually need more federal regulation.  It’s probably clear that I strongly support the individual’s right to their own genetic information via DTC testing, but this viewpoint is rarely seen or endorsed in the press.  Bailey concludes:

“There may well be some inaccurate tests and there will certainly be people who mislead customers about the meaning of certain tests. But do we really need additional federal regulation to weed out bad actors? Most evidence suggests that the current tests are fairly accurate, and that customers are not being misled by the results that are reported. All new technologies involve a societal learning process in which some early adopters try it out, explain to others how it works, and find out its flaws—which newer innovators then fix.”

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GeneTree and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation Team Up to Offer Y-DNA Participants of SMGF Database a Greatly Reduced Price on Genetic Profile

SALT LAKE CITY (May 26, 2009) – GeneTree and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) today announced a special offer to the tens of thousands of men who donated their Y-DNA samples and pedigree information to the non-profit SMGF’s genetic genealogy database. At a deeply discounted price, participants now may access their Y-DNA profiles through GeneTree and employ the site’s extensive tools, including the SMGF database, to search and connect with genetic relatives.

SMGF has been building the database-the world’s most diverse collection of genetic genealogy information-since 2000 through donation of DNA samples and four-generation genealogy questionnaires by people interested in helping the foundation succeed in its goal of connecting the human family through genetic genealogy. Until the launch of GeneTree in Oct. 2007, SMGF did not have a way to provide participants with their genetic profiles in a meaningful form. Now for $49.50, or about one-third of the typical price, SMGF participants can receive their Y-DNA profiles through GeneTree.

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The Mystery of Benjaman Kyle (Powell?) – An Update

image In January I wrote about Benjaman Kyle, an amnesiac who was found on August 31, 2004 next to a dumpster behind a Burger King in Richmond Hill, Georgia.  In that post, “Using Genetic Genealogy to Solve the Mystery of Benjaman Kyle,” I suggested that a Y-DNA test might be helpful in elucidating Mr. Kyle’s biological surname.  Y-DNA testing has shown to be highly useful for identifying unknown surnames (see here and here), and so I contacted Mr. Kyle to suggest the possibility.

The Results Are In

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Kyle took a 67-marker test from Family Tree DNA.  The results, announced it seems by Kimberly Powell of Kimberly’s Genealogy Blog, suggest that his surname might actually be POWELL or a variant thereof.  His results are now part of the Powell Surname DNA Project as kit #140314 where he very closely matches the “Joseph Powell Group.”  See more here.  From Kimberly’s post:

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DNAPrint Genomics Ceases Operations

dnaprintgIn February, I received a number of comments and emails which suggested that DNAPrint Genomics was not processing results and could not be reached by telephone.  DNAPrint was one of the first companies to offer ‘large-scale’ autosomal testing, although their tests were unable to compete with the testing currently offered by companies like 23andMe and deCODEme.

Indeed, the company has recently ceased operations.  From the site: “DNAPrint® Genomics, Inc. has regrettably ceased operations. We thank you for your support.”  As I wrote last February, the company was scheduled to be purchased by Nanobac Pharmaceuticals, but the deal fell through shortly thereafter.

GenomeWeb Announces DNAPrint’s Demise

From an announcement today at GenomeWeb – “DNAPrint Genomics Goes Bust”:

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Large-Scale Genetic Genealogy Privacy Concerns

thegeneticgenealogist1 I’ve been working on a presentation regarding the future of genetic genealogy, and one aspect of that future is the ability to trace DNA (SNPs, mutations, haplogroups, etc…) through recent history as the result of combining extensive genomic sequencing with massive family tree information.  Although the ability to do this will have many uses (both for genealogy and for personalized medicine), it will also raise a number of privacy issues, as a recent paper suggests.

A New Privacy Study

In “Inferential Genotyping of Y Chromosomes in Latter-Day Saints Founders and Comparison to Utah Samples in the HapMap Project,” author Jane Gitschier uses a combination of FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org) and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (http://www.smgf.org/) to elucidate the Y-chromosome signature of two founders of the LDS Church.  Gitschier then used that information to determine whether anyone who contributed DNA to the HapMap project was related to these individuals via the Y-chromosome (none appeared to be).  However, Gitschier was able to predict the surname of many of the HapMap participants using these databases.

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