With Genetic Testing, I Gave My Parents the Gift of Divorce

DNA testing can be a wonderful thing. It solves family mysteries, brings families closer together, and more. Sometimes…

A stem cell and reproductive biologist had his own DNA tested. After all, he is a DNA expert. He even teaches a college course about the genome. He recently gave DNA kits to both his mother and his father and was anxious to see the results. As he wrote, “I was very interested in confirming any susceptibility to cancers that I heard had run in my family, like colon cancer. I wanted to know if I had a genetic risk.”

He received a surprise, to say the least. It seems 23andme found a close relative, closer than anyone had expected.

Was Jack the Ripper REALLY Identified through DNA? I Doubt It.

The news services are full of stories claiming that Jack the Ripper has finally been identified through “proof” provided by DNA. The story claims that Jack the Ripper was really Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew whose family had emigrated to London to escape pogroms in the 19th Century.

However, a closer look at the story raises serious questions about the “proof.” The claimed “proof” is questionable at best. It may even be outright fraud although I hope not.

Is Genetic Genealogy the Next Facebook of Science?

Last Saturday morning at the first International Conference for Genetic Genealogy in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Genographic Project Director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells delivered the Keynote to an audience of 300 genetic genealogists. He spoke about the popularity of the field and how fast consumer genetics has grown since the launch of The Genographic Project in 2005.

Could genetic genealogy become popular outside of the genealogy and medical communities? Perhaps. You can read a short article by Miguel Vilar about Saturday’s presentations in the National Geographic web site at http://goo.gl/qrCHWP.

Will Ancestry.com Add Family Health Info to Autosomal DNA Genetic Genealogy Service?

An article in the BioArray News, written by Justin Petrone, speculates that Ancestry.com may expand its genetic genealogy services to include family health-related information. A company spokesperson confirmed that the firm is in the “early stages of exploring family health history as a part of our company’s offering,” but declined to further elaborate.

You can read Justin Petrone’s article at http://goo.gl/baIkLy. (You will have to create a user name and password before you can read the article.)

AncestryDNA Matching Update Impacts Jewish Ancestry

The following is an extract from a new announcement posted on the Ancestry.com Blog:

AncestryDNA customers with significant Jewish ancestry have witnessed the challenges that we and other genetic genealogy testing companies have faced when predicting genetic relatives. Most Jewish customers find that we predict them to be related to nearly every other Jewish customer in the database! So while we all know that the cousin matches for Jewish and some Hispanic customers were over-estimates, detecting which cousin matches were real and which ones were bogus has always been a challenge for these populations.

Google’s New Baseline Study Wants to Map Your DNA

Google has begun a new project aiming to define what constitutes a healthy human being. The project, called Baseline Study, will collect “anonymous genetic and molecular information,” initially from 175 people but eventually thousands of others. The hope is that the Baseline Study will help researchers detect killers such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, pushing medicine more toward prevention rather than the treatment of illness. Google will use its computing power to analyze the info and find patterns, called biomarkers. The hope is that these biomarkers can be used to detect any disease a lot earlier.

This is a hugely ambitious project which could lead to better preventative measures enabling us all to live longer.

Announcing “How-To DNA” – A Multimedia How-To Guide for Genetic Genealogy

Blaine Bettinger is a genealogist and a DNA expert with a Ph.D. in biochemistry with a concentration in genetics. He is a frequent author and lecturer with a focus on DNA. He has now announced the creation of a new online how-to guide for genetic genealogy. The site will include short instructional how-to videos for beginners, as well as presentations and webcasts for the advanced genealogist.

Iceland’s DNA: The World’s Most Precious Genes?

City of Reykjavik, Iceland

BBC News has an interesting article by Emma Jane Kirby describing a quandary within the country. deCODE Genetics, an Icelandic company, is asking all residents to donate DNA samples. About one-third of the country’s residents have done so and many others plan to do so. However, a minority of the people are questioning the wisdom and the privacy issues involved.

Family Tree DNA Reaches a Historic Milestone: More than 1,000,000 DNA Tests Processed

The following announcement was written by the folks at Gene By Gene, Ltd.:

Family Tree DNA, the genetic genealogy arm of Gene by Gene, and the world leader in the field, announced today that it has processed over 1,000,000 DNA test kits results for genealogy and anthropology purposes.

This historic amount includes Family Tree DNA’s tests as well the processing of public participation samples for National Geographic’s Genographic Project (www.genographic.com). Family Tree DNA is the Genographic Project’s genetic testing partner.

Update: Ancestry.com to Drop MyFamily, MyCanvas, Genealogy.com, Mundia and the Y-DNA and mtDNA Tests

I wrote last week (at http://wp.me/p5Z3-lk) about Ancestry.com’s decision to cancel a number of products and services. The article generated a lot of readers’ comments that can be seen at the end of the article. Today, Ken Chahine of Ancestry.com published a response that explains some of the reasons why the company decided to terminate the Y-DNA and mtDNA products.

You can read Ken Chahine’s article at http://goo.gl/CkGt6F.

Are You Addicted to Coffee? Blame Your Ancestors!

If you absolutely cannot function without coffee, or find yourself putting bacon on everything you eat, those cravings could be genetic. Researchers at the University of Trieste, and the Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to locate the genes that cause us to prefer certain foods over others. The study found 17 genes that connect to liking certain food such as coffee, bacon, ice cream and dark chocolate.

These studies are all a part of nutrigenetics, which explore the effects between nutritional food and genetic information to find how it relates to ones health.

You can read more in an article by Carl Engelking in Discover Magazine at http://goo.gl/70puKb.

Family Tree DNA offers a Father’s Day Sale: Family Finder for $79 and Big Y for $595

Family Tree DNA is offering discounts on two of the company’s most popular products. Family Finder is an autosomal DNA test that automatically finds your relatives within 5 generations. It works by comparing your DNA to the DNA of other users in Family Tree DNA’s massive database. The Family Finder test is available for $79 (regular $99) until June 17th.

Now is the Time to Transfer Your Y-DNA and Autosomal DNA Information

On Thursday, Ancestry.com™ announced that the company will no longer sell Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. Even worse, the results from past Y-DNA and mtDNA tests will no longer be available after September 5, 2014. Ancestry.com apparently will erase all of its customers’ Y-DNA and mtDNA test results. Anyone who has Y-DNA data stored on Ancestry.com probably will want to transfer that data to a different matching service, preferably well before September 5.

EvoCor Identifies Gene Relationships that are Functionally Linked

Gregorio Valdez, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and his team have designed a search engine, called EvoCor. It reportedly identifies genes that are functionally linked. The name, a portmanteau of “evolution” and “correlation,” points to the idea that genes with a similar evolutionary history and expression pattern have evolved together to control a specific biological process. The goal is to find ways to treat diseases that often have a genetic component, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

Lawsuit Alleges Unauthorized Publication of Personal Genetics Data

An Alaska man reportedly is the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit. An online article claims the lawsuit was placed against “FamilyTee, a Texas-based DNA testing company.” I assume that is FamilyTree DNA, based in Houston. However, the newspaper article in the Ars Technica web site simply says “FamilyTee,” not FamilyTee, DNA. Maybe it is two different companies, although I doubt it. More likely it is sloppy reporting by the author of the article to not properly use the full name of the company.

In any case, the lawsuit claims that “the results of his DNA tests were made publicly available on the Internet, and his sensitive information (including his full name, personal e-mail address, and unique DNA kit number) was also disclosed to third-party ancestry company RootsWeb (a subsidiary of Ancestry.com, a company that allows users to research their lineage).”

Genetic Genealogy Standards — Public Comments Requested

The following was written by the Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee:

A group of individuals, including genealogists, genetic genealogists, and scientists, have worked for the past several months to develop a draft of genetic genealogy standards. The document is intended to provide ethical and usage standards for the genealogical community to follow when purchasing, recommending, sharing, or writing about the results of DNA testing for ancestry.

To ensure that this document accurately reflects the standards embraced by the community, we are opening this document [at https://sites.google.com/site/geneticgenealogystandard/] for a period of public comment, from May 12, 2014 through June 6, 2014.

DNA Sequences Reportedly Can Trace Your Ancestors to Within 30 Miles

DNA sequencing can already tell us a lot about our ancestors—but now, a new technique developed by an international team of scientists reportedly allows them to pinpoint a person’s geographical origin—going back 1,000 years.

The Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool beats previous best attempts to tie location to DNA. It claims to track populations back to the islands or villages they descend from, with a 98 percent success rate, compared to within about 500 miles for old methods.

Genealogy and Biogeography Meet Personalized Medicine

Medical professionals have long known that biogeographical data is useful in screening for disease risk and drug sensitivity associated with certain ethnic groups. Using a database of worldwide populations, investigators developed a dataset of reference populations that are genetically diverse and have been geographically localized for centuries. With the newly-developed tool, the investigators were able to take unknown samples, identify the proportions of admixture–meaning, genetic characteristics specific to certain ethnic groups that were combined because of events like migration or invasion–and then calculate the distance to the nearest known population that shares the same admixture signature, in order to identify place of origin.

Family Tree DNA Announces the Release of a new Y-DNA Haplotree

To commemorate DNA Day and Arbor Day, Family Tree DNA has announced the release of a new Y-DNA Haplotree. The company states the “key to unlocking your ancestral beginnings is now closer than ever with the addition of more than 5,000 new SNPs and hundreds of new branches.” To help you refine your new Y-DNA Haplotree, all SNPs are offered at 20% off through April 29, 2014.

You can learn more at https://www.familytreedna.com/y-dna-compare.aspx.

Family Tree DNA to Offer 20% off from April 25 to 29

Family Tree DNA has sent project administrators a pre-announcement of a limited DNA Day sale, in effect only April 25-29. The 20%-off sale applies only to Y-DNA SNP tests and Y-DNA37, not to the company’s other services. The sale officially begins at 12:01AM on April 25 and will end at 11:59pm on April 29.

The sale has not yet been officially announced. However, keep an eye on the company’s web site at http://www.familytreedna.com for details that should appear soon.


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