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).
“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.”
“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.”
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 latest issue of TIME Magazine lists the top 50 inventions of 2008, and the invention of the year is the Retail DNA Test.Â The article is mostly about the product currently offered by 23andMe.Â From the article:
This week I was quoted in the November issue of Wired Magazine about the use of autosomal DNA for genetic genealogy testing.
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.Â 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!Â 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 doesnâ€™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?”
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.Â Rather than completely altering their preconceived biographical narratives based on the results of testing, many people struggle to mesh genetic results with these narratives.Â From the abstract:
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.”Â 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.Â Church might have meant genotype (i.e. sequencing) information, since some information about phenotype, health history, and medication has already been posted on the PGP website.Â There is information about each of the 10 participants, although there is currently no active link to their genetic information:
“Complete Genomics will not begin its service until the second quarter of next year. By then, the cost of competing technologies will no doubt have fallen further. Just last week, Applied Biosystems, a leading manufacturer, said it expected that its newest machine would allow a human genome to be sequenced for $10,000, although that includes only the cost of consumable materials, not labor or the machinery.”
“[A]ffordable whole-genome sequencing is getting closer and closer every day (my prediction – which is based solely on my own educated guess – is that I will be able to sequence my entire genome for $1,000 or less by the end of 2009).”
It was pretty bold at the time, and I’ve since wondered if I was too optimistic, but now comes news that at least one other person agrees with my prediction.Â Harvard professor and genetics researcher George Church – also principal investigator for the Personal Genome Project (PGP) – stated at two conferences, one last week and one this week, that by mid-October of 2008, 36-fold coverage of the human genome will be available for $5,000.Â Church went on to say that the $1,000 human genome will be available by the end of 2009.