A recent article by Ronald Bailey in reasononline asks whether genetic tests actually need more federal regulation.Â Itâ€™s probably clear that I strongly support the individualâ€™s right to their own genetic information via DTC testing, but this viewpoint is rarely seen or endorsed in the press.Â Bailey concludes:
â€œThere 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 flawsâ€”which newer innovators then fix.â€
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.
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.Â In that post, â€œUsing Genetic Genealogy to Solve the Mystery of Benjaman Kyle,â€ I suggested that a Y-DNA test might be helpful in elucidating Mr. Kyleâ€™s biological surname.Â 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.Â The results, announced it seems by Kimberly Powell of Kimberlyâ€™s Genealogy Blog, suggest that his surname might actually be POWELL or a variant thereof.Â His results are now part of the Powell Surname DNA Project as kit #140314 where he very closely matches the â€œJoseph Powell Group.â€Â See more here.Â From Kimberlyâ€™s post:
In 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.Â DNAPrint was one of the first companies to offer â€˜large-scaleâ€™ 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.Â From the site: â€œDNAPrintÂ® Genomics, Inc. has regrettably ceased operations. We thank you for your support.â€Â As I wrote last February, the company was scheduled to be purchased by Nanobac Pharmaceuticals, but the deal fell through shortly thereafter.
Iâ€™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, etcâ€¦) through recent history as the result of combining extensive genomic sequencing with massive family tree information.Â 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.
23andMe and mondoBIOTECH announced at Davos (the World Economic Forum in Switzerland) today that they will work together to further the study of rare diseases.Â According to the press release (below), mondoBIOTECH will identify individuals suffering from certain rare diseases and sponsor their enrollment in the 23andMe Personal Genome Serviceâ„¢.Â Researchers will use the information collected to learn more about the potential causes of these rare diseases.
Linda Avey appeared on CNBC this morning to discuss the company and the partnership â€“ see â€œIt’s All in the Genes.â€
The Press Release:
Davos, Switzerland â€“ January 28th 2009 â€“ 23andMe, Inc., an industry leader in personal genetics, and Mondobiotech AG, a Swiss research company dedicated to the development of treatments for rare diseases, today announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that they are collaborating to advance research of rare diseases.
Although I can hardly hope to introduce or discuss these recent events any better than Daniel MacArthur has alreadygiven at Genetic Future, I will at least bring this new information to your attention.
Last Wednesday the New York Times printed â€œMy Genome, My Selfâ€, an article written by Stephen Pinker, one of the Personal Genome Projectâ€™s â€œFirst 10.â€Â In the article, Pinker talks about his experience with genome sequencing through the PGP.Â It is especially interesting since Pinker analyzes the issue from the point of view of a psychologist.Â I highly recommend reading this article if you are at all interested in personalized medicine or genetics.
Much of the article discusses the confusing results that are returned by genome/disease analysis, due to our current lack of understanding in this enormous field:
An international team of researchers have concluded that humans entered the Americas from Asia along at least two different paths.Â By studying two rare mtDNA haplogroups found in Native Americans â€“ D4h3 and X2a â€“ the researchers conclude that D4h3 spread into the Americans along the Pacific coast while X2a entered through the ice-free corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets.
From the Press Release:Â â€œSix major genetic lineages account for 95 percent of Native American mtDNA and are distributed everywhere in the Americas,â€ said first author Ugo Perego, director of operations at SMGF. â€œSo we chose to analyze two rare genetic groups and eliminate that â€˜statistical background noise.â€™ In this way, we found patterns that correspond to two separate migration routes.â€
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 anything, although he claims to have vague memories or affiliations for certain things. For example, he appears to have some background knowledge of restaurant equipment and design. Surprisingly, he does not match any known missing person report, and no one has come forward with knowledge of his identity, despite considerable media coverage. For more background information about Benjaman Kyle, see “A Real Live Nobody” in SavannahNow.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!Â I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing start to the new year.Â 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:
DNA results show no link to ancient human remains – About 230 Native people participated in study to find ShukÃ¡ Kaa descendants.Â Dr. Brian Kemp, who I interviewed back in 2007, is attempting to find maternal relatives of 10,300 year-old remains named ShukÃ¡ Kaa (Man Before Us) who is Haplogroup D.Â Native Americans are often reluctant to donate their DNA, and this collection represents a huge sampling of Native mtDNA.Â I hope the sequences will be shared.Â See more here and here.