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A Review of Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder – Part II

Last week I wrote about the results of my Family Finder autosomal DNA test by Family Tree DNA (see “A Review of Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder – Part I“).  The Family Finder test uses a whole-genome SNP scan to find stretches of DNA shared by two individuals, thus identifying your genetic cousins (and will soon include the Population Finder analysis of admixture percentages).  I currently have over 33 genetic cousins in Family Finder, and I’m working with them to identify our common ancestor(s).

The Affymetrix microarray chip used by FTDNA includes over 500,000 pairs of SNPs located on the X chromosome and the autosomes (no Y chromosome SNPs).  Via SNPedia:

FamilyTreeDNA uses an Affymetrix Axiom CEU microarray chip with 3,269 SNPs removed (563,800 SNPs reported) for autosomal and X (but not Y or mitochondrial) ancestry testing for $289. Other sources have cited 548011 snps. This platform tests 1871 of the 12442 snps in SNPedia.

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Welcome, Doctor Radio Listeners!

Doctor Radio

I was recently asked to participate in a discussion with Dr. Deb Neklason, Ph.D on the satellite radio channel “Doctor Radio,” hosted by Dr. Ira Breite.  We largely spoke about a 2008 study, led by Dr. Neklason (who I thought did a wonderful job of explaining the science and results in layman’s terms during the show), in which it was concluded that a gene that often causes cancer traces back to a Mr. and Mrs. George Fry who came to America in 1630.  I have a write-up of the study here (http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2008/01/03/a-single-colon-cancer-gene-traced-to-1630-the-future-of-genetic-genealogy/).  There was also some brief discussion of mtDNA testing and the future of personal genomics.

Here is Dr. Breite’s description of this morning’s show:

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Pathway Genomics Goes Live

imageThe newest entrant in the field of personal genomics has officially gone live.  Pathway Genomics, located in California, uses SNP testing to examine information about Health conditions, Ancestry, Carrier Status, Personal Traits, and Drug Response.  The company collects DNA via a spit kit, and has its own lab on-site:

We decided early on that the surest way to completely secure your information would be to build our own CLIA-certified laboratory. And that’s just what we did. Once we receive your saliva sample in our lab, your DNA never leaves the building. As a matter of fact, we place it in our proprietary DNA Lockbox for safekeeping. No other DNA testing firm offers this level of security. Others send your DNA elsewhere for testing, even to non-secure overseas locations!

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A Four-Part Series About Personal Genomics at Condé Nast Portfolio – Are Genetic Tests Really Useful?

iStock_000004876214XSmall Portfolio presents an interesting four-part series by David Ewing Duncan about personal genomics. But before I go on, it is important to realize that this series focuses on personal genomics – analysis of SNPs or sequencing throughout the genome – rather than the much narrower field of genetic genealogy. Although there are some ethical concerns surrounding genetic genealogy, they are not specifically addressed in the series.

Portfolio’s public relations coordinator circulated a summary of the series (I wish I had a PR coordinator!):

In Portfolio.com columnist David Ewing Duncan’s four-part series, “You 2.0,” he assess and compares three major websites recently launched that test a person’s DNA for risk-factors for everything from Alzheimer’s Disease and heart attack to drug addiction, an ability to taste bitterness, and ancestry. Is this information ready for prime time? Can it really predict a healthy person’s medical future? Duncan has been tested by 23andme, deCodeme, and Navigenics, and reports on his sometime contradictory and confusing, sometimes funny, and occasionally enlightening results gleaned from these controversial sites that are attempting to bring genetics directly to the people.

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The Latest News About 23andMe

image For new readers of The Genetic Genealogist, 23andMe is a personal genomics company that offers a service to examine more than 600,000 SNPs throughout an individual’s genome. The information is then used to analyze ancestry (using Y-DNA and mtDNA) and to estimate propensity for disease. For much more info about 23andMe and similar companies, look under “Personal Genomics” on my Featured Articles page.

A Contest

Today, 23andMe announced on their blog – The Spittoon – the winner of the company’s first ‘Win Your Genome Contest’. The contest was to describe Lilly Mendel, a publicly available but anonymous profile at 23andMe – based upon her genetic information alone. The winner was Mike Cariaso, who previously created a program that analyzes 23andMe SNP data using the growing SNPedia database.

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Controversial Article About Genetic Tests At The Jewish Journal

An article entitled “Gene Test Kits – Can They Lead To Dating Services” by Annalee Newitz discusses the author’s thoughts on the implications of genome sequencing offered by the number of companies that have sprung up in the past year. As a genetic genealogist who is interested in the intersection of law, science, and ethics, I’m always interested in articles that examine the ethical issues associated with affordable genome sequencing. Unfortunately, this article turned out to have little substance behind some serious accusations.

“Snake Oil”?

Newitz begins by mentioning companies 23andMe and deCODEme, both of which recently launched genome scanning services. She then proceeds to her thesis, which is that these services are not only not useful, they are dangerous. She states:

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deCODEme DNA Results At Roots Television

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, one of the founders of Roots Television and the author of Megan’s Roots World recently released a screencast of her husband’s deCODEme results at “A First Look at deCODEme DNA Results.” Megan is the Chief Family Historian of Ancestry.com and is co-author of Trace Your Roots With DNA, and thus is both extremely interested in genetic genealogy and aware of the limitations of this type of DNA analysis. The 17-minute review includes a brief look into the different aspects of deCODEme’s analysis, including health and ancestral information.

Should We All Be Testing Our DNA?

That’s the title of an article at BBC News yesterday. The article’s header states that:

“More and more people in the UK are following America’s lead in spending hundreds of pounds on private genetic tests.”

The article is about genetic testing for health concerns, not for genealogical purposes. Although the article is very short, the author does manage to highlight a few of the potential benefits and downfalls of genetic testing.