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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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The Close Cousins DNA Project – A Request for Help

Chimpanzee

Image by Aaron Logan

Roughly 6 million years ago, the Hominini subtribe of the Hominidae family tree (the so-called “great apes”) diverged into two known branches, with one branch (genus Pan ) resulting in modern-day Chimpanzees and Bonobos, and the other branch (genus Homo) resulting in modern-day humans.

Since there has only been 6 million years of divergent evolution, Chimpanzees/Bonobos and Humans share a great deal of DNA sequence in common (although estimates vary widely and typically depend on what, exactly, is being considered in the comparison).

The Close Cousins DNA Project

On May 31, 2008, the Close Cousins DNA Project was launched by Bill Davenport as a result of a discussion on the Genealogy-DNA mailing list regarding the relatedness of human and chimpanzee Y-DNA.  From the launching post:

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1

Interviews with 23andMe Customers

Image representing 23andMe as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

DAVIDE at the European Genetics and Anthropology Blog recently posted two interviews (here and here) with customers of 23andMe’s large-scale genome scanning service, one from Finland and one from the U.S.

It’s very interesting to see the responses of these anonymous individuals, particularly since they are from different countries.

For example, both were asked why they decided to purchase the 23andMe test – “Was it to test your ancestry or genetic health risk factors?”  Interestingly, for both individuals ancestry was the motivating factor behind testing.  More support for my conclusion that these companies should strongly promote the ancestral aspects of their products.

Other Questions

Here are a few examples of other questions in the interviews:

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1

80 Percent of Americans Favor Making Genetic Testing MORE Available

iStock_000007659966XSmall The Virginia Commonwealth University Life Science Center has released the results of the VCU Life Sciences Survey and I thought I’d share some of the interesting results.

The most surprising result of the survey is that 80% of surveyed adults favor making genetic testing “easily available to all who want it,” similar to values in 2001 and 2004.  Don’t tell this to the New York and California Departments of Health!

The Benefits Outweigh the Risks

54% of adults believe that the benefits of genetic testing outweigh the risks, while 25% believe that the risks outweigh the benefits.  It’s interesting to see the education breakdown of this question.  44% of people with a high school degree or less believe that benefits outweigh risks, compared to 67% of people with a college degree or more.  And 29% of people with a high school degree or less believe that risks outweigh benefits, compared to 20% of those with a college degree or more.

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6

A Lecture by Spencer Wells

image Last week I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project from National Geographic and IBM.

The talk was a Syracuse Symposium event, and the first big event ever to be held in Syracuse University’s new $110 million Life Sciences Center.  I thought it was fitting that the first event to celebrate the future of the new life sciences building was a lecture that examined the collective genetic journey of mankind.

Dr. Wells began by giving the audience a very brief introduction about DNA and genetic genealogy.  He included a great quote that “The question of origin is actually a question about genealogy.”  For those that are not familiar with the Genographic Project, it was launched in 2005 and includes three primary missions:

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1

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 history, and medication has already been posted on the PGP website.  There is information about each of the 10 participants, although there is currently no active link to their genetic information:

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3

Abstracts From the ASHG 2008 Meeting

image The American Society of Human Genetics is having its 58th Annual Meeting in November.  As I was looking through the meeting abstracts, I noticed that there were a number of abstracts that dealt with topics related to genetic genealogy.  I thought some of you would be interested in getting an advance look at genetic genealogy research that will be publicly released and published over the next year or two.  Although I didn’t include the whole abstracts for most of them, I did include a link for further investigation.  (Note: I got this idea from Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog).

Interestingly, the first five abstracts all include researchers from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, showing how much the Foundation is providing to the genetic genealogy community.

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The $1,000 Genome by the End of 2009?

On December 30th, 2007, I blogged the following:

“[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.  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.  Church went on to say that the $1,000 human genome will be available by the end of 2009.

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Gene Genie #37: Human Genomes Are a Dime a Dozen

image Welcome to the September 14, 2008 edition of Gene Genie!  Bloggers have begun to pick up posting with the end of summer, and it seems like everyday there’s a bunch of new interesting posts about the human genome.

96well at Reportergene presents “Trends in development of reporter genes.”  Reportergene is also looking for bloggers/reporters to join the blog’s community and help create the “main repository of news and tools for reportergenomists.”  See here for more information.

fightingfatigue presents » Have Japanese Researchers Found Diagnostic Tool for ME/CFS? posted at Fighting Fatigue.  According to a study discussed in the article, there might now be a test able to diagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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Follow-Up to 23andMe’s Price Drop

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Yesterday I wrote about 23andMe’s decision to lower their price to $399 (down from $999) while adding more genealogically-relevant SNPs and partnering with Ancestry.com.  Although I don’t have any further information about the new SNPs, I’ve seen a couple of interesting articles about the price drop around the blogosphere.

Aaron Rowe at Wired science writes “Human Genetics is Now a Viable Hobby.”  He notes that the new price is “well within the reach of cash-strapped grad students, frugal genealogy buffs and other not-so-early adopters.”  The comment thread is an interesting read as well.

“Cheap as chips”

Daniel MacArthur of Genetic Future writes “Cheap as chips: 23andMe slashes the price of personal genomics” at his new scienceblogs location.  Daniel also notes that the updated product “will certainly be popular with genetic genealogists” because of the addition of Y-DNA and mtDNA SNPs, and agrees with my hypothesis that other companies will follow suit and lower their prices.  Daniel also mentions the Personalized Medicine Collaborative (PMC) at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, which is offering free personal genome scans to 10,000 individuals this year.

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