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€
The standardized system was first published in the Fall 2008 issue (pdf) of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG).
First, let me add a note of caution â€“ this change ONLY represents a change in how results are REPORTED.Â Even though companies report results differently, this does not mean that the actual DNA testing results are wrong or different!Â This shift is NOT to correct errors in testing results; it is only to standardize reporting.
Ancestry Magazine has a new article by Megan Smolenyak about the use of Y-DNA testing to examine the origins of the Haley maternal line.
Chris Haley, nephew of Roots author Alex Haley, underwent Y-DNA testing.Â After receiving the results which showed European origin (Haplogroup R1b), the results sat in the database for 18 months before a match was found.Â Many of us have similar experience; our results are recorded and available but are waiting for the day we find a match.
Haley was lucky, however, and he was soon in contact with the family.Â From the article:
Thomas [Baff, the individual that Haley tried to contact] turned out to be June Baff Black, Thomasâ€™s daughter, who responded (she was thrilled!). Juneâ€™s parents had researched the family back in the 1980s; Juneâ€™s own involvement had started while watching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Sheâ€™d been fascinated by Colin Jacksonâ€™s DNA test, ordered a test for her father, her Y-DNA stand-in, and mailed if off only a few weeks before hearing back from Chris.
Pathway Genomics Brings Together Renowned Team of Entrepreneurs, Scientists, Physicians, and a Government Certified Lab to Offer Personal Genetics Services
San Diego, Calif., July 15, 2009â€”Pathway Genomics, a privately held, ventureâ€backed company, today announced its launch, including the companyâ€™s web site, www.pathway.com. Pathway Genomics offers affordable genetic tests for under $250, enabling consumers to confidentially learn about their risk for various diseases, adverse drug responses, carrier status, and ancestral history. Leveraging customized and highly innovative DNA genotyping technologies, Pathway Genomics generates the most extensive analysis of an individualâ€™s risk for disease and can trace the path of a personâ€™s maternal and paternal ancestry back more than 150,000 years.
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.”Â This blog will undoubtedly be a must for anyone interested in personal genetics.Â 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.Â The Genomics Law Report focuses on the legal implications of important developments in the fields of genomics and personalized medicineÂ â€” including key litigation, legislative, regulatory and policymaking activitiesÂ â€” in order to facilitate understanding ofÂ the complicated and shifting legal landscape governing genomic and personalized medicine commerce and research.”
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.”
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.Â 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.
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).
An article in the United Arab Emirate newspaper The National (wikipedia) does a terrific job of highlighting recent research from Family Tree DNA.Â The story – â€œDNA could illuminate Islamâ€™s lineageâ€ â€“ discusses research that has attempted to elucidate the Y-DNA signature of Mohammed.Â Although Mohammed did not have a son, he had a daughter who married her paternal second cousin, thus passing to Mohammedâ€™s grandchildren the same Y-DNA.Â From the article:
â€œFor 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.â€