Five bioethicists have published a paper in today’s issue of Science – The Illusive Gold Standard in Genetic Ancestry Testing (paid subscription required) – calling for government regulation of genetic ancestry testing (aka genetic genealogy). There is an accompanying press release: Stanford Bioethicist and Colleagues Call for Federal Regulation of Genetic Ancestry Testing (another press release is available here).
I highly respect the work of these authors, and I appreciate their efforts to educate the public about these issues. I do, however, wonder why the article was published in Science. The article mostly rehashes arguments found in a number of other articles (including from a very similar 2007 Science article (link) with some of the same authors) without adding any new research or supporting evidence. This is my greatest criticism of this and related articles – much of the hypothesis rests on anecdotal evidence without any corresponding research for support (such as objective social research with genetic ancestry testing customers).
Via ” Mapping the Mario Batali Genome”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is working on a new four-part genetic genealogy series for PBS called “Faces of America”, expected to air in 2010. Unlike the previous African American Lives series, the latest work will examine the genetic ancestry of Americans from all walks of life. From the press release (“THIRTEEN, Kunhardt McGee Productions and Inkwell Films, in Production on New PBS Series, Faces of America“):
Global in scope, Faces of America will look beyond the black experience to explore American identity with guests who are Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Syrian, West Indian, and Native American. Joining Professor Gates in this new series are poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and read the poem at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, chef Mario Batali, comedian and television personality Stephen Colbert, writer Junot Diaz, writer Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, cellist Yo Yo Ma, writer and director Mike Nichols, former monarch of Jordan Queen Noor, actress Meryl Streep, and Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
Ancestry.com DNA offers a Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroup predictor – the Ancient Ancestry Finder – based primarily on location of your most distant known paternal or maternal ancestor. From the site:
To give everyone a sampling of these results, with Finder™ we’ve built a simple experience that takes a best guess at describing your ancient ancestors. You answer 2 or 3 questions with the most basic info about your family (facts almost everyone knows). And then we provide a few options for likely ancient ancestral groups, along with descriptions of those groups…The spirit of Finder™ is a bit different from what you may have experienced on our site. It’s part of our effort to introduce ancestry and genealogy to a wider audience.
This is a little off-topic for The Genetic Genealogist, but I thought I would share this paper which I wrote for a Genetics & Ethics class this spring. The paper examines all the biological and behavioral limitations on the ability of humans to create so-called “designer babies” solely from selecting embryos before in vitro fertilization. Although many are worried about the impact of being able to choose which embryo to implant, the paper argues that the impact is significantly limited by a number of factors.
Note that this paper does NOT factor in the potential for creating designer babies by changing an embryo’s DNA; that’s a whole different can of worms!
Posted via web from Blaine Bettinger’s Lifestream