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Using Genetic Genealogy to Solve the Mystery of Benjaman Kyle

Bkcleanshaven I recently wrote about using genetic genealogy to potentially identify a male’s unknown surname.  Although I had in mind using DNA to find an adopted male’s biological surname, the method has numerous other applications.  For instance, it can be used in an attempt to identify the surname of a male who has forgotten his biological surname.

A Mystery Man

Just before 7 a.m. on August 31, 2004, an adult male was found lying next to a dumpster behind a Burger King in Richmond Hill, Georgia.  He was naked, beaten, sunburned, and covered in bites from fire ants.  Benjaman Kyle, as he has decided to call himself (note the BK connection), eventually recovered from his physical ailments but was unable to remember anything about himself or his past.  To this day, he cannot remember … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy in the News – January 1, 2009

umair shuaib.
Image via Wikipedia

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing start to the new year.  Thank you for reading TGG in 2008, and I hope you are as excited as I am about the developments in genetic genealogy that 2009 is sure to bring!

Here is a recap of some of the most recent news in genetic genealogy and personalized genomics in the end of 2008:

Personalized medicine covered in the New York Times.

Dr. Marjolein Kriek, First Woman to Have Her DNA Sequence Determined (HT: Megan Smolenyak).

DNA results show no link to ancient human remains – About 230 Native people participated in study to find Shuká Kaa descendants.  Dr. Brian Kemp, who I interviewed back in 2007, is attempting to find maternal relatives of 10,300 year-old remains named Shuká Kaa (Man Before Us) who is Haplogroup D.  Native Americans are often reluctant to donate their DNA, and this collection represents a … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy Links for December 12 2008

Positions of the different countries and terri...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m currently in the middle of third-year law school exams, so I thought I’d do a round-up of all the interesting stories I’ve seen over the past week or two.

Holiday Specials on DNA Testing

First, it appears that most of the major genetic genealogy companies are offering special deals for the holidays:

Family Tree DNA announces a holiday sale – FTDNA is offering reducing pricing for customers who are part of or join a DNA project.  For example, a 37-marker Y-DNA test is reduced to $119, down from $149.

Ancestry.com announces holiday sale – buy a DNA test between now and December 31st, and you’ll receive 40% off.  For example, a 33-marker Y-DNA test is $89.40 (usually $149) and their mtDNA test is $107.40 (usually $179).

African Ancestry announces a holiday sale – their MatriClan and PatriClan tests, which are normally $349, are on sale for $275.

Genetree offers a special first birthday sale – I’m not sure if this sale is open to everyone … Click to read more!

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Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage Partner to Combine DNA With Family Trees

image
As the Guardian reported today in “Genealogy website MyHeritage offers low-cost DNA tests“, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage have formed a partnership to combine DNA testing with online family trees.  From the press release:

“With close to 220,000 records, FamilyTreeDNA is the largest database of genealogic DNA information in the world. This provides the perfect complement to MyHeritage’s current research tools, giving our members another way to learn about where they come from,” said Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “We help people around the world discover, connect and communicate with their extended family network and easily research their family history. Now, by working with FamilyTreeDNA, we can offer a solution when the paper trail runs out.”

Special Discount at Family Tree DNA:
imageAs part of the partnership, Family Tree DNA is offering special pricing to MyHeritage members.  However, readers of TGG can click here to obtain the discount without being a member of MyHeritage.  The following prices are with the discount:

  • Y-DNA25 – a Y-chromosome test for males (US$129)
  • mtDNA – a mitochondrial DNA test for males and females (US$129)
  • Y-DNA25 + mtDNA – a combined Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA test for males (US$219)

Interesting Tidbits from the … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy at the ASHG Meeting in Philadelphia

The 58th annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics is currently being held in Philadelphia.  Today at 10:00AM there will be a session specifically about genetic genealogy entitled “The Social, Ethical, and Biomedical Implications of Ancestry Testing: Exploring New Terrain.”  From the abstract:

“What is genetic ancestry and how does it relate to race and ethnicity? The development of increasingly cost effective genomic sequencing technologies and public interest in genetic ancestry has led to a dramatic flourishing of direct-to-consumer products and new approaches to biomedical research. In this session, panelists define the contours of this emerging landscape and explore the commercial, biomedical, social and ethical implications of this burgeoning category of genomic application. Panelists consider the following questions: What genetic ancestry information is available to consumers? How is genetic ancestry used in biomedical research? What implications do genetic approaches to ancestry have on social identity? What ethical and policy issues must be addressed in this changing landscape? Panelists provide perspectives from industry, medicine, cultural studies, and bioethics.”

The moderator of this session is Sandra Soo-Jin Lee of Stanford University.  The panelists include Joanna Mountain who will talk about ‘New dimensions for direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing’; Kimberly Tallbear who will talk about ‘The genetic construction of indigeneity’; and Esteban González Burchard who will talk about ‘The importance of ancestry testing and genetics in biomedical research’.  Additionally, the moderator will discuss ‘Racing forward: The ethics of ancestry testing.’

Comments:

I don’t like the mixing of the controversial phrase “direct-to-consumer” with genetic … Click to read more!

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The Full mtDNA Genome of Ötzi is Sequenced (Twice?)

Großglockner seen from the southwest. The Groß... Image via Wikipedia Ötzi the Iceman is the popular name for a 5,000 year-old mummy discovered frozen in the ice of the Alps in 1991.  Studies of the Iceman has revealed an immense amount of information about him, including details of his life, his death, and his culture.  Although Ötzi’s mtDNA has previously been studied, researchers had only examined short segments which suggested that his mtDNA belonged to Haplogroup K.  A new paper in Current Biology (subscription only darn it) details Ötzi’s full mtDNA genome for the first time:

"Using a mixed sequencing procedure based on PCR amplification and 454 sequencing of pooled amplification products, we have retrieved the first complete mitochondrial-genome sequence of a prehistoric European. We have then compared it with 115 related extant lineages from mitochondrial haplogroup K. We found that the Iceman belonged to a branch of mitochondrial haplogroup K1 that has not yet been identified in modern European populations."

The full sequence (which has been deposited in GenBank with accession number EU810403) was then compared to 115 published full mtDNA Haplogroup K sequences.  The comparison suggests that Ötzi belonged to a previously uncharacterized … Click to read more!

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The Retail DNA Test Named the #1 Invention of 2008 by TIME Magazine

Image representing 23andMe as depicted in Crun...
Old 23andMe logo via CrunchBase

The latest issue of TIME Magazine lists the top 50 inventions of 2008, and the invention of the year is the Retail DNA Test.  The article is mostly about the product currently offered by 23andMe.  From the article:

“We are at the beginning of a personal-genomics revolution that will transform not only how we take care of ourselves but also what we mean by personal information. In the past, only élite researchers had access to their genetic fingerprints, but now personal genotyping is available to anyone who orders the service online and mails in a spit sample. Not everything about how this information will be used is clear yet — 23andMe has stirred up debate about issues ranging from how meaningful the results are to how to prevent genetic discrimination — but the curtain has been pulled back, and it can never be closed again. And so for pioneering retail genomics, 23andMe’s DNA-testing service is Time’s 2008 Invention of the Year.”

As the past year has shown, many people are opposed to this type of product for various reason, including that the test doesn’t involve genetic counseling, it isn’t ordered or interpreted by your personal doctor, and issues of genetic discrimination.  However, the article doesn’t shy away from these issues and provides a brief but interesting look into both sides.

This award highlights the fact that we are in the midst of a vast genetic revolution.  We are the first generation to be able to peer into the DNA inherited … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy Tidbits

Image created by Abizar Lakdawalla - fair use.
Image via Wikipedia

This week I was quoted in the November issue of Wired Magazine about the use of autosomal DNA for genetic genealogy testing.

A Controversy

At “Adoptees use DNA to find surname,” Larry Moran at Sandwalk comments on my recent articles (here, here, and here) regarding the use of genetic genealogy (or genetic sequencing in general) test results to find unknown biological parents.  Although Dr. Moran accuses me of being a “cheerleader” who is blind to any ethical concerns associated with using DNA to find biological parents, he obviously didn’t do his research!  Less than a month ago I wrote this on the blog:

“For most people, being able to identify your own ancestors based on your own DNA poses few if any ethical dilemmas. However, what if your neighbor or your stalker or even law enforcement wants to use a sample of your DNA to identify your ancestors? Additionally, what if your living ancestor doesn’t wish to be identified? Does the ancestor have that right, or is possible identification through genetic genealogy just one of the consequences of parenting a child anonymously or simply having sex with another person?”

In response to a write-up at Genome Technology, Discovering Biology in a Digital World wrote “Hey sperm donors, could DNA testing be hazardous to your wealth?“.

Blending Genetic Genealogy and Personal Genomics

Often, articles that discuss both genetic genealogy and whole-genome scans … Click to read more!

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Article Review: “Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry”

I just finished reading an article by Alondra Nelson in the journal Social Studies of Science entitled “Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry” (Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 759-783).  Dr. Nelson is Assistant Professor of Sociology, African American Studies and American Studies at Yale University.

This very interesting and insightful article aligns with my own premise, which I’ve stated previously, that receiving the results of a genetic genealogy test is only the beginning of the journey for any individual interested in their own identity or genealogy.

Based on her research in this area, Dr. Nelson writes about the complex interpretation of the results of genetic genealogy testing by African-Americans and black British.  Rather than completely altering their preconceived … Click to read more!

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Personal Genome Project Begins Releasing Information

image The Personal Genome Project (PGP) was established to analyze and publicly share the genomes and personal information of up to 100,000 volunteers in order to advance understanding of “genetic and environmental contributions to human traits and to improve our ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness.”  In the first phase of the PGP, ten volunteers (the “First 10″ – see information about the First 10 here on my blog and at the PGP website) have had their DNA analyzed and have given their personal information.

Last month, George Church, the PGP’s principal investigator, reported that the project expected to publish data about the First 10 on its website in mid- to late October.  Church might have meant genotype (i.e. sequencing) information, since some information about phenotype, health … Click to read more!