PLoS Genetics has a new paper (PLoS Genet 3(11): e185. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030185) that examines autosomal microsatellite markers (repeating units of base pairs) from Native American DNA:
“We examined genetic diversity and population structure in the American landmass using 678 autosomal microsatellite markers genotyped in 422 individuals representing 24 Native American populations sampled from North, Central, and South America. The Native American populations have lower genetic diversity and greater differentiation than populations from other continental regions. We observe gradients both of decreasing genetic diversity as a function of geographic distance from the Bering Strait and of decreasing genetic similarity to Siberiansâ€”signals of the southward dispersal of human populations from the northwestern tip of the Americas”
Hereâ€™s the question: Do people really make â€œlife-changingâ€ decisions based upon the results of a genetic genealogy test?This phrase is often stated but is seldom supported with actual facts or case studies.And Iâ€™ve certainly never seen an estimated percentage of people who have made these types of â€œlife-changingâ€ decisions, which would really help further the discussion.
Earlier this month, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. announced the launch of his new genetic genealogy company, AfricanDNA.com. According to the press release, â€œthe precedent-setting site is the only company in the field of genetic genealogy that will provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.”
I’m sorry if I’ve overloaded you on the recent launches of 23andMe and deCODEme, but I think there’s so much to talk about. For a little lightheartedness, read “23andMe Party” from How to Change the World by Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki describes a friends and family “Spit Party” hosted by 23andMe, and even has a number of pictures from the event.
The party offered attendees the chance to submit their DNA for analysis at a discounted rate. Some of the attendees included co-founders Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki, at least one Nobel Prize winner, and celebrities Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
I have been accused of being a little too thorough sometimes.All things considered, thatâ€™s a flaw that I can live with.In the name of thorough, I offer the following review of recent online references to this weekendâ€™s launch of personal genome analysis companies deCODEme and 23andMe.If youâ€™re tired of hearing about the topic feel free to skip this post, but if youâ€™re interested in the conversation that these launches have stimulated, read onward.
Kara Swisher at All Things Digital recently toured the new offices of 23andMe.The article â€“ â€œKara Visits 23andMeâ€ â€“ has a brief write-up and three videos.The first video is Ms. Swisherâ€™s tour of the offices and includes an overview of the DNA collection kit and a brief interview with Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki.The second and third videos are part of a longer interview with Avey and Wojcicki.
Given all the recent activity in the field of personal genomic analysis, I was curious about how the readers of this blog felt about having their own genome analyzed. Here’s a poll that will give me a rough idea – please feel free to vote! If you’re reading this through a feed, you might have to stop by the blog to vote.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, known in shorthand as GINA, is federal legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against an applicant based on genetic information, the refusal to submit genetic information, or for have been genetically tested in the past. The Act, if passed, would also prohibit employers from using or collecting genetic information to make employment decisions. I wrote a GINA Primer in April, if you’re interested in learning more about the Act (here’s the full text of the legislation). The Act, which is currently a bill before the Senate, easily passed the House of Representatives (97% voted aye), and President Bush has said that he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.
I have written a lot about the Mountain View based personal genome start-up company 23andMe (February 14th, April 9th, June 19th, July 31st, and September 13th, to name a few).As a matter of fact, if you google â€œ23andMeâ€, The Genetic Genealogist is the second result.
Today, deCODE genetics announced the launch of their consumer genotyping service, deCODEme.deCODEme is the first personal genomics company to launch, and will provide sequencing information about 1 million SNPs for the introductory price of $985.The service has two components:
1.The genotyping of ~1 million SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or personal differences in the genetic code), and;
2.A secured website for presenting the data obtained from the sequencing.
The official press release from the parent company deCODE genetics, contains some interesting information about the product:
“Through your subscription to deCODEme, you can learn what your DNA says about your ancestry, your body –traits such as hair and eye color– as well as whether you may have genetic variants that have been associated with higher or lower than average risk of a range of common diseases. This information will be continually updated as new discoveries are made.
“It is now possible for old customers of Relative Genetics to upgrade from 26 to 43 markers through DNA Heritage. This applies to customers for whom the DNA sample is already on file with Relative Genetics.
The cost for this test is just $75.”
If you were a customer of Relative Genetics and are interested in this opportunity, the upgrade offer is here.
Edward Ball is the author of Slaves in the Family, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1998. Mr. Ball’s latest book is the subject of this review-by-proxy (I haven’t read it myself, so I’ll be sharing what others have said).
The new book, The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA, is reported to “intrigue America’s many amateur genealogists and also serve as a cautionary tale.” The book follows Ball’s journey through his family’s genetic genealogy after he discovers locks of hair in an old family desk.
Megan Smolenyak reviewed the book over a week ago at Megan’s Roots World with “The Genetic Strand: Slightly Disappointing.” Megan’s review brings up a number of points, including Ball’s failure to provide some essential information (like his family tree). One of the most interesting critiques, which was also criticized by a review in the New York Post, surrounds the following paragraph: