Researchers Want to Link Your Genes to Your Income but Should They?

The UK Biobank is the single largest public genetic repository in the world, with samples of the genetic blueprints of half a million Brits standing by for scientific study. But when David Hill, a statistical geneticist at the University of Edinburgh, went poring through that data, he wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer or deeper insights into the biology of aging. Nothing like that. He was trying to figure out why some people make more money than others.

Hill and like-minded colleagues are working on a science they call sociogenomics. There are many useful uses for the information. For instance, a “genetic income score” could allow economists and epidemiologists to more precisely investigate fundamental questions about inequality.

However, there is a dark side to the information found:

The new Type 2 Diabetes Report from 23andMe

I wrote about this new report briefly (at https://wp.me/p5Z3-7ez) a couple of weeks ago. Now 23andMe has released a bit more information that will interest anyone with Type 2 Diabetes themselves or if Type 2 Diabetes is found in his or her family tree.

The new announcement states:

23andMe’s new Type 2 Diabetes report* offers customers insight into their likelihood of developing one of the most prevalent, pernicious, and yet preventable health conditions in the United States.

This new report will impact more 23andMe customers than any other Health Predisposition report the company has ever released. In part, this is because the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is so high in the general population.

Has Investigative Genealogy Become the Wild, Wild West?

The marriage of genealogy and DNA being used to solve “cold case” crimes is receiving a lot of publicity these days. On the one hand, it is an excellent tool for solving murders and other violent crimes. On the other hand, there are concerns about personal privacy, government “Big Brother” privacy issues, abuse by police and others that have access to the various databases, and about simple human errors that can cause innocent people to be incarcerated or even executed.

NOTE: Click here to read about one recent example of an innocent man being arrested and incarcerated because of mistaken identity in a DNA test. Luckily, in this case, the error was discovered by a suspicious public defender and the innocent man was released from custody within a few days. However, will other mistaken identity cases be rectified so quickly?

Help Us Catch Killers is now the New Advertising Angle for DNA Companies

A DNA ancestry company criticized for letting police use its gene databases is turning the table on critics. FamilyTreeDNA has now produced a TV advertisement that urges consumers to help them catch criminals.

The television spot, to air in San Diego first, asks anyone who has had a direct-to-consumer DNA test from another company, like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, to upload a copy so that law enforcement can spot any connections to DNA found at crime scenes.

Is DNA Evidence Reliable?

DNA has become a major tool for use by police in solving cold cases of murder and other violent crimes. In the past year, about 50 cold cases have been solved nationwide using public genealogy websites. But is this evidence alone reliable?

James H. Manahan, J.D., has written an article in the Lake County (Minnesota) News-Chronicle that tells why DNA evidence alone can be misleading. Manahan cautions that DNA is a great tool but also must always be used in conjunction with old-fashioned police work.

One Company Makes Almost All the Home DNA Test Spit Tubes

I found an article by Kristen V Brown in the Bloomberg web site to be interesting reading. It isn’t about genealogy as much as it is about one of the tools genealogists use to determine their ethnic origins.

Almost all DNA tests today are made by spitting into a vial (which is a small tube) or by swabbing the insides of a cheek and then inserting the swabbing stick into a vial for shipment to the testing company. The vial carrying your saliva needs to make its way safely to the testing company’s lab. That vial was almost certainly designed by OraSure’s subsidiary, DNA Genotek.

Quoting from the article:

A Personal Comment About 23andMe’s Announcement of a New Genetic DNA Report on Diabetes

NOTE: I earlier published “23andMe is Looking to Expand to Millions More Users with a New Genetic DNA Report on Diabetes.” The article is available at: http://bit.ly/2UwqYjV. Several newsletter readers asked questions about the new announcement. I decided to post my comments here in the newsletter in case others have similar questions.

I also have some personal comments.

All I know about the new diabetes reports is what is in the announcement from 23andMe, as published at https://blog.23andme.com/health-traits/type-2-diabetes.

The report does say, “This new report will impact …” I interpret the word “will” to mean it isn’t available today but will become available soon. Also, the same article states: “To learn more about the science behind 23andMe’s new Type 2 Diabetes report see our white paper” (which is available at: https://permalinks.23andme.com/pdf/23_19-Type2Diabetes_March2019.pdf).

Personal Comments:

I am especially interested in this new report because (1.) I am a 23andMe customer who has received earlier medical reports from the company and (2.) I was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic 11 years ago.

23andMe is Looking to Expand to Millions More Users with a New Genetic DNA Report on Diabetes

One in three people is at risk for diabetes. So 23andMe set out to develop the first direct-to-consumer genetic test to assess whether its users have a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of the disease. The company has been around for more than a decade, but said its new diabetes report is the first of its kind.

The company is upgrading its $99 and up at-home DNA test to include a report on diabetes, with an explanation on both the genetic and lifestyle factors that influence who’s likely to get the disease in their lifetimes.

Announcing DNA Down Under with Blaine Bettinger

The following announcement was written by Unlock the Past:

Announcing DNA Down Under

with Blaine Bettinger

Adelaide, South Australia, 5 March 2019  –  Unlock the Past is delighted to announce DNA Down Under, a DNA themed roadshow to six Australian cities, culminating in a major 3-day conference in Sydney.

This is a world class conference and roadshow. Choose from 40 topics in three streams in Sydney over three days. The other five cities offer 10 topics each in two streams over a full day. There are topics at all levels, ranging from beginner to expert. Each city will have an exhibition of product and service suppliers, societies, DNA interest groups and organisations.

The presenters

MyHeritage Extends DNA Quest Initiative to Help More Adoptees Reunite with Their Birth Families

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage:

MyHeritage pledges 5,000 additional free DNA kits for global distribution to eligible participants, following the success of the first phase of its pro bono initiative

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah–MyHeritage, the leading global service for family history and DNA testing, announced today that it is extending DNA Quest, its pro bono initiative to reunite adoptees with their birth families through at-home DNA testing. The first phase of DNA Quest was launched in March 2018 and offered 15,000 free DNA kits to adoptees and those seeking to reunite with family members who were placed for adoption. This resulted in many successful reunions. Due to the large number of applicants, a waiting list of several thousand people was established after registration closed in May 2018. The next phase of DNA Quest announced today re-opens applications on the project website (www.dnaquest.org) and will offer an additional 5,000 free DNA kits to eligible applicants from all countries. Preference is given to applicants who are unable to afford genetic testing.

MyHeritage helps people find their relatives using its DNA Matching technology. The MyHeritage DNA database is one of the fastest-growing in the industry and currently numbers 2.5 million people, including people who tested on MyHeritage and others who uploaded the results of their DNA test for free from other providers. Numerous participants have already reconnected with long-lost family and others have obtained vital clues to assist them in their search. New discoveries continue to emerge, offering participants newfound hope of reuniting with their long-lost loved ones. The search for biological family, especially for birth parents, is time sensitive, as each year older relatives pass away.

Ancestry® Announces new Content Releases and Game-Changing Family History Research Tools at RootsTech 2019

The following is a brief extract from the Ancestry Blog:

“For the 9th consecutive year, we are thrilled to be participating in RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City. It’s such a special event that unites tens of thousands of people who are curious, excited and passionate about family history. For more than 30 years, we too have shared your passion and are proud to introduce never-before digitized content collections and cutting-edge research tools to continue to empower your journey of personal discovery.

MyHeritage Breakthrough: The Theory of Family Relativity™

MyHeritage made an announcement this morning at RootsTech2019 that should interest every genealogist who has had a DNA test. I had a chance to use this new innovation briefly and it confirmed a “maybe” entry in my personal genealogy database that had bugged me for years. I previously had found a mention of a man that I suspected is my great-great-grandfather, along with information about his parents. However, the brief mention was in someone else’s family tree and I wasn’t confident about it’s accuracy.

The new Theory of Family Relativity™ not only found him but also showed the amount of DNA that he and and I and another of his descendants share. It also displayed information about a lot of distant cousins of mine that I previously was unaware of. Not bad for the first five minutes of use!

Here is the announcement from MyHeritage:

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah–MyHeritage, the leading global service for family history and DNA testing, revealed today its latest innovation in genetic genealogy — the Theory of Family Relativity™. This technology offers users, for the first time ever, theories that utilize nearly 10 billion historical records and family tree profiles to explain DNA connections. Until now, family history enthusiasts used two distinct domains for making discoveries: the paper-trail world of records and trees, and the biological world of DNA connections. Now, MyHeritage has combined these two domains and integrated them seamlessly.

Ancestry Announces New and Improved DNA Matches Fact Sheet

Click here to see a PDF file of the entire announcement.

Proposed Bill Would Force Many Arizonians to Pay $250 to Have Their DNA Added to a Database

This proposed legislation would be great for future genealogists if they can gain access to the database (which I doubt). However, there are huge security and privacy issues involved.

Arizona Bill 1475 was introduced by Republican State Senator David Livingston and would require teachers, police officers, child day care workers, and many others to submit their DNA samples along with fingerprints to be stored in a database maintained by the Department of Public Safety.

“While the database would be prohibited from storing criminal or medical records alongside the DNA samples, it would require the samples be accompanied by the person’s name, Social Security number, date of birth and last known address,” reports Gizmodo. “The living will be required to pay [a $250 processing fee] for this invasion of their privacy, but any dead body that comes through a county medical examiner’s office would also be fair game to be entered into the database.”

The text of the proposed bill may be found at: https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/1R/bills/SB1475P.pdf.

Your DNA Ethnicity Report Probably Will Change Over Time

In other words, you might not be who you think you are!

This is something that genealogy DNA experts all know but DNA newcomers usually do not. You can have your DNA sample taken one time and submit it to one testing service. A few weeks later, you will receive a report that shows the percentage of ancestry you have different parts of the world.

Simple, isn’t it? Well, not really…

For many people, perhaps most people, if they go back to that testing service’s web site some time later and look at their own DNA report again, they may find that the report has changed! The reason is simple: since the first report was completed, the DNA testing company has improved their database(s) with new and more extensive data. In fact, the DNA testing companies are often updating their ethnic origins databases in order to provide even more precise reports.

While your DNA obviously hasn’t changed, the information the testing company uses to interpret that DNA often changes when more information becomes available. As the Ancestry DNA web site says:

Bode Technology Announces Forensic Genealogy Service to Law Enforcement Agencies and Crime Laboratories

This won’t help any of us find our ancestors. However, it is interesting to see what other organizations are doing with DNA databases:

LORTON, VA. FEBRUARY 11, 2019 – Bode Technology (Bode), a leading provider of forensic DNA analysis products and services, announced a new forensic genealogy service offering to law enforcement investigators and crime laboratories. Bode’s Forensic Genealogy Service (FGS) combines advanced DNA testing and genealogy to develop ancestral relationships between samples and deliver leads to our clients.

For more than 20 years, Bode has provided forensic DNA testing services for clients across the world to identify perpetrators of crimes, identify the missing and exonerate the innocent. The results are entered into the national DNA database and investigative leads are developed from the matches within the database, however not all samples result in matches.

Tracing the Founding Fathers of Tristan da Cunha

Would you like to create a pedigree chart for this extended family?

Tristan da Cunha is a remote group of volcanic islands in the middle of nowhere. It is in the south Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1,511 miles (2,432 km) off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa. That is roughly half way between South Africa and Brazil The main island has 278 permanent inhabitants who all carry British Overseas Territories citizenship.

See Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_da_Cunha for more information about Tristan da Cunha.

The island, which boasts rich and detailed historical and genealogical records, has a population of just 300, believed to have descended from 15 ancestors – seven men and eight women who arrived on the island between 1816 and 1908. The current population of 278 individuals reportedly are all descended from only seven females and eight males.

Maryland Legislature Bill Introduced Prohibiting Law Enforcement to Use Publicly Available DNA Databases

The following is a message from Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson, of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

Familial DNA matches have been in the news since the California Golden State Killer was apprehended due to this technology last year. Since then other familial matches have led law enforcement to make other such arrests in outstanding major crimes such as murder and rape.

A bill introduced in Maryland, HB 30, would prohibit such searches by law enforcement or others from searching DNA or genealogical databases in order to identify an offender in connection with a crime for which the person may be a biological relative to the individual whose DNA sample is in the database. See: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2019RS/bills/hb/hb0030f.pdf

Maryland is the first state to ban the practice of familial DNA searches statewide. The District of Columbia also bans the practice. The state’s DNA collection act was authorized in 1994 which included a provision prohibiting familial searches using the statewide DNA data base for such searches. The bill extends the existing prohibition to commercial databases. Author believes the search violates the 4th Amendment of US Constitution and state constitution.

Predicting the Effectiveness of Immunotherapy Treatment by Using DNA Analysis, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), and Huge Databases in the Cloud

NOTE: This article is not about genealogy but does describe the use of DNA to prevent or cure life-threatening medical problems.

Australian analytics company Max Kelsen is using DNA information derived from millions of individuals, along with the Google Cloud, and artificial intelligence (A.I.), to predict the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

The company is integrating A.I. and whole-genome sequencing into cancer research and clinical practice, focusing initially on immunotherapy treatment for melanoma and small cell lung cancer.

Genetic Markers Don’t Follow National Borders, Says Expert

An article in the Yucatán Expat Life web site tells something that DNA experts have known for years: the claims of DNA ancestry from a particular country are often bogus. Wandering tribes of humans did not confine themselves to today’s political borders in their travels many years ago. In addition, almost all of the western hemisphere is a melting pot of people who came from many different countries.

Can a DNA kit accurately tell you how Mexican you are? Not according to one of the leading genealogy DNA experts of today.

“It’s an impossibility to really identify anyone’s DNA to be ‘Mexican,’” genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger of Baldwinsville, N.Y., told BuzzFeed News.