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The Latest in Genetic Genealogy and Personal Genomics News

A quick digest of some of the most interesting news and developments in the field:

10 Great Blogs for Genetic Genealogists

I made this list of 10 Great Blogs for blogs.com a few months ago.  It contains 10 blogs that I believe are vital reading for anyone interested in personal genomics, including genetic genealogy.  Here are my picks, but check out the link for my description of each blog:

  1. DNA – Genealem’s Genetic Genealogy
  2. Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog
  3. European Genetics and Anthropology Blog
  4. Eye on DNA
  5. Genetic Future
  6. Genomeboy.com
  7. Megan’s Root World
  8. The Daily Scan
  9. The Personal Genome
  10. The Spittoon, deCODEyou, DNAction

Genetic Genealogists Assist Studies

In addition to the articles published in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (the Spring 2009 issue was just released), genetic genealogists have often assisted researchers publishing studies in other journals.  This reinforces my suggestion to researchers that they interact with the genetic genealogy community to facilitate research.  For instance, here is a quote from a new article in PLoS ONE examining the Y-DNA Haplogroup G:

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“You Can’t Handle the Truth” – an Article Arguing Against Increased Federal Regulation of DTC Genetic Testing

Alzheimer disease A recent article by Ronald Bailey in reasononline asks whether genetic tests actually need more federal regulation.  It’s probably clear that I strongly support the individual’s right to their own genetic information via DTC testing, but this viewpoint is rarely seen or endorsed in the press.  Bailey concludes:

“There 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 flaws—which newer innovators then fix.”

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GeneTree and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation Team Up to Offer Y-DNA Participants of SMGF Database a Greatly Reduced Price on Genetic Profile

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.

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The Mystery of Benjaman Kyle (Powell?) – An Update

image 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.  In that post, “Using Genetic Genealogy to Solve the Mystery of Benjaman Kyle,” I suggested that a Y-DNA test might be helpful in elucidating Mr. Kyle’s biological surname.  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.  The results, announced it seems by Kimberly Powell of Kimberly’s Genealogy Blog, suggest that his surname might actually be POWELL or a variant thereof.  His results are now part of the Powell Surname DNA Project as kit #140314 where he very closely matches the “Joseph Powell Group.”  See more here.  From Kimberly’s post:

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Pathway Genomics Testing Kit

Pathway Genomics, a new DTC genetic testing company that I discussed earlier at “Pathway Genomics Goes Live,” has begun sending out test kits.  The following quote and picture are from “DishyMix: Susan Bratton Podcasts & Blogs Famous Executives”:

“I Twittered a week or so ago that my friend, Chris D’Eon is a founder of Pathway Genomics and I was going to get my DNA tested. I got a lot of response to that one little Tweet, so I thought I’d share more with you about it.”

Pathway Genomics

Disclosure: I am currently a consultant for Pathway Genomics.

Personal Update:

I also wanted to let everyone know that my second son was born 3.5 weeks ago, and yesterday I graduated from law school.  It’s been a crazy few weeks, and now it’s time to start studying for the NY bar before starting work full-time in the fall.  Wish me luck!

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Knome Lowers Price of Full Genome From $350,000 to $99,000

imageI’ve talked about the personal genomics company Knome here at TGG a number of times.  The company is one of the few, if not only, entity offering customers the opportunity to receive their entire genomic sequence.  After paying for sequencing, customers receive their genetic sequence on an 8-gigabyte USB drive in an engraved silver box.  The USB is encrypted and contains special genome browsing software (KnomeXplorer).

The Cost of Sequencing Crashes

According to an article at MSN Money entitled “$99,000 to see your future?,” Knome recently lowered the price of sequencing from $350,000 to $99,000.  This isn’t very surprising considering how quickly the cost of sequencing is dropping.

From the article:

“Just to give you some context, the U.S. government finished sequencing the first genome in 2003, and it took 13 years and about $3 billion,” says Jorge Conde, the 31-year-old CEO of Knome. “We’re now at the point that we can do it for $99,000 in three months. Our goal is to eventually be able to offer this to a large segment of the population for around $1,000.” (Just a year ago, Knome was asking $350,000 for its services.)

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TGG Ranked as #9 on ProGenealogists’ List of Top 25 Genealogy Blogs

This has been a great week for The Genetic Genealogist, and I just wanted to send out my gratitude.

First, TGG was included by Chris Dunham of The Genealogue in his list “10 Genealogy Blogs Worth Reading” at Blogs.com!  I’m truly honored to be listed among the other great bloggers in the article.  (Like Chris, I was recently asked to create a Top 10 list which I believe will be posted soon, but my list focuses more on genetic genealogy and personal genomics blogs).

imageAnd second, TGG was listed as #9 on the ProGenealogists list of The Top 25 Genealogy Blogs of 2009!  The rankings were based on “overall content, Technorati rating, and industry experience.”  It is an honor to be included among this group of incredible bloggers.  Be sure to visit the website to check out the other blogs on the list.

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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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Genome Hacking at The New Scientist

Journalists Peter Aldhous and Michael Reilly write about using DNA obtained from a drinking glass and other sources to “hack” someone’s genome.

In “Special investigation: How my genome was hacked,” the authors use a variety of consumer-available DNA services to prepare and amplify genomic DNA in order to send it away for analysis by deCODEme.  They used deCODEme, it appears, because 23andMe and Navigenics use saliva collection, and “it would be hard to convert [the] amplified DNA sample into a form that closely mimicked saliva.”  They did use 23andMe, however, as a control.  Interestingly, the cost of the entire process was about $1,700 for lab services (preparation and amplification) and $985 for deCODEme’s service.

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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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