DNA

Do You Have Melanoma (Skin Cancer)? If So, Blame Your Ancestors!

From an article in the MedicalXpress web site:

“Australian researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have shown that 22 different genes help to determine how much sun exposure a person needs to receive before developing melanoma.

“For people at high genetic risk, sun exposure in childhood is a strong contributing factor while people at low genetic risk develop melanoma only after a lifetime of exposure to sunlight.

“The study results have been published today in the British Journal of Dermatology.”

In short, some people have a higher than average risk of developing Melanoma because of the DNA they inherited from their ancestors.

Genetic Genealogy can Help Solve Cold Cases. It can also Accuse the Wrong Person.

According to an article by Nsikan Akpan, William Brangham, and Rhana Natour published in the PBS News Hour web site:

“From a law enforcement perspective, the case for using genetic genealogy is strong. But experts are also flagging concerns about what the method means for people’s legal and DNA privacy.”

Here is a quote from further in the same article:

“Genetic genealogy — in truth, any forensics dependent on DNA — can fall prey to the same human biases that plague other aspects of law enforcement. Close relatives or even non-relatives can be accused of the crime if care is not taken with how the genetic genealogy is interpreted.

“It happened to Michael Usry.”

23andMe’s Stance on Protecting Customers’ Data

The following is from an article by Kathy Hibbs, 23andMe’s Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, as published in the company’s blog:

“A Florida judge recently issued a warrant granting law enforcement access to search the database of GEDmatch, a small publicly accessible DNA and genealogy research site. Allowing law enforcement access to GEDmatch’s nearly one million users should trouble anyone who values people’s right to privacy.

“It certainly troubles us here at 23andMe.

“Perhaps just as disturbing is GEDmatch’s apparent lack of scrutiny and challenge of the validity of the warrant issued.

Warrant Issued Permitting Police Full Access to GEDmatch Database

I bet this issue gets debated in the courts before long!

The following announcement was posted to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) mailing list by Jan Meisels Allen and is republished here with her permission:

Accessing public DNA databases to find a potential familial match for a criminal act such as murder or rape started in April 2018 when California police used GEDmatch to identify someone whom they believe is the Golden State Killer. Since then there have been many law enforcement agencies that applied the same method to their own cases. Private DNA testing firms such as 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc. have pledged to keep their client’s genetic information private, and GEDmatch, a public site restricted police access earlier this year, by requiring the use to opt-in for law enforcement access to their genetic information.

Last week a detective in Florida announced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference convention that he was successful to “penetrate” GEDmatch and search its full database of almost one million users. It appears to be the first time a judge approved such a warrant. With a court overruling the company’s policy may be a game changer for those who upload their genetic information to such a site. Remember, when you are sharing your genetic information, that encompasses not only your own personal information, but those family members who share your DNA. It is anticipated that a similar approach will be used to see if law enforcement may access the larger private genetic databases.

Doctor at Center of Lawsuit involving DNA Agrees to Give Up Medical License

A Colorado doctor who is accused in a lawsuit of using his own sperm to artificially inseminate multiple women, has voluntarily given up his medical license.

On Friday, the Grand Junction, Colorado, doctor agreed to relinquish his medical license to the Colorado Medical Board after just renewing it in May. When earlier asked if he would give a DNA sample, the doctor replied, “No.” When asked why, he stated, “Because I don’t want to have any incriminating evidence against me.”

You can read more in an article in the KJCT8.COM web site at: https://www.kjct8.com/content/news/564374431.html.

Ancestry Makes $1 Million Educational Grant to UpToDate to Develop Genetic Testing Information for Medical Providers

The following announcement was written by Ancestry®:

LEHI, Utah & LAS VEGAS–Grant Reflects Ancestry’s Focus on Working with Providers, Consumers Toward Improved Health Outcomes

Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, announced it has made a $1 million educational grant to UpToDate®, a leading evidence-based clinical resource, to independently develop information for healthcare providers to help them interpret and act on the results of genetic testing. Announced during a mainstage discussion at the 2019 HLTH innovation conference by Margo Georgiadis, chief executive officer of Ancestry, the grant is part of Ancestry’s long-term commitment to partnering with healthcare stakeholders to improve preventive health.

As millions of consumers choose to take DNA tests to gain greater insight into their health and wellness, healthcare providers must be prepared to have informed and meaningful conversations with their patients, helping them understand how their genes influence their health to enable them to take actionable next steps.

What is a Polygenic Risk Score?

Jessica Greenwood, MS, LGC has written an article about DNA that is now available in the MyHeritage Blog. I suspect this article will interest many people, genealogists and non-genealogists alike. It certainly was of interest to me! The article describes your inherited DNA and the effect it has on your health and life expectancy.

Jessica Greenwood writes:

“As the average lifespan has grown over the past several decades, learning about your health and how to preserve it has become increasingly more important. Scientists are constantly uncovering new developments about the impact that genetics has on our long term health. Genetics, and what they mean for us personally, can be complicated. But learning how our genetics may impact our health can empower us to make different choices that can significantly change the long-term risk to develop certain conditions.

Over the Next Several Months, AncestryDNA Customers May Receive Updated Ethnicity Estimates and That’s a Good Thing

The team of scientists at AncestryDNA have increased the company’s reference panel to more than double its previous size with DNA samples from more places around the world, resulting in the latest update to AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates. In short, with more detailed data to work with today, the company can now provide more accurate locations of your ancestors. This means there may be some changes to the results you received earlier.

The expanded AncestryDNA reference panel helps deliver even more precise regions in West Africa, northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.

Quoting from the announcement in the AncestryDNA Blog:

Ancestry’s DNA Health Screening Will Require a Doctor’s Order from PWNHealth, an Independent Network of Board-Certified Physicians and Genetic Counselors

Ancestry said Tuesday that its new consumer health tests (described in an earlier article in this newsletter at https://tinyurl.com/eogn191017) will require authorization by a physician.

As mentioned in the original announcement: “Ancestry has partnered with PWNHealth, an independent network of board-certified physicians and genetic counselors, to offer these services, which are included in both AncestryHealth Core and AncestryHealth Plus.”

Ancestry Chief Executive Officer Margo Georgiadis says the company wanted to focus on providing ways for its tests to integrate easily into the care patients receive from their regular doctors.

AncestryHealth Announces Genotype and Next Generation Genetic Sequencing Services

The following announcement was written by Ancestry:

LEHI, Utah & SAN FRANCISCO – (Oct. 15, 2019) – For more than 30 years, Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, has built innovative services that empower millions of people to make more meaningful discoveries about themselves and their families. First with family history, then through DNA and today, with the introduction of AncestryHealth®. AncestryHealth is a long-term commitment to making a difference in preventive health through personalized and actionable insights.

Through a highly supportive and guided experience, AncestryHealth services deliver actionable insights that can empower people to take proactive steps — in collaboration with their healthcare provider — to address potential health risks identified in their genes and family health history. In a recent AncestryDNA® customer survey, 83 percent of respondents said they are looking for new ways to improve their health and 89 percent said it is critical for their children to learn about improving their health.

Responsible Genetic Genealogy

This article provides supplemental information to my earlier article, Your Comments are Requested Concerning an Interim Policy Concerning Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching, that is available at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn101011.

Quoting an article by Thomas F. Callaghan in the ScienceMag.org web site:

“The scientific development of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG), which couples genetic analysis with investigation of publicly available genealogy information, has successfully transformed law enforcement investigations by solving more than 50 cases over the last 18 months in the United States. However, use of FGG by law enforcement has preceded widespread development of best practices to protect the genetic privacy of private citizens who have voluntarily submitted samples to genealogy databases. Absent best practices, use of FGG could lead to compromised cases, diminished use, or the loss of this new investigative tool. Public support for FGG could be jeopardized and confidence in forensic DNA analysis could be undermined. As the custodian of a national law enforcement DNA database (CODIS), the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looked to by many in the law enforcement and forensic DNA communities for guidance, and its efforts often influence the global community. The emergence of FGG suggests that further discussions on privacy, genomics, and the use of genealogy by law enforcement would be beneficial. Accordingly, the FBI seeks to engage the scientific and bioethics communities in such a dialogue.

Your Comments are Requested Concerning an Interim Policy Concerning Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching

The following is an IAJGS Public Records Access Alert:

I would encourage those who are interested in forensic genetic genealogy and law enforcement access to submit comments to forensicgenealogy@fbi.gov before November 1, when their interim policy becomes effective.

To read the interim policy go to:

U.S. Department of Justice, Interim Policy on Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching (2019); https://www.justice.gov/olp/page/file/1204386/download

23andMe’s New VIP Service Includes a One-On-One Chat to Explain your DNA

23andMe just added a third purchasing option for those who want a little bit more.

The new VIP Health + Ancestry Service delivers more options for customers, including concierge-like services. The VIP service bundles together one 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service kit, with a companion kit, overnight shipping, and priority lab processing.

Doctor Sues Fertility Clinic After Discovering He Has At Least 17 Unknown Children From Sperm He Donated Decades Ago

Were you and your spouse or significant other both born in the Portland, Oregon area about 30 years ago? If so, you both might want to have your DNA tested to see if perhaps you are closer relatives than you previously thought you were.

An Oregon doctor is suing a fertility clinic after discovering that sperm he donated wasn’t used the way he wanted. Dr. Bryce Cleary discovered that he has at least 17 unknown children after donating sperm three decades ago.

Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter and Gene By Gene Join Forces to Shape the Future of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

The following announcement was written by Gene By Gene, the parent company of FamilyTreeDNA:

Barbara Rae-Venter, PhD

HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2019 — Genetic genealogist Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, recognized for her groundbreaking work in the Golden State Killer case, named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019, and Nature’s 10 people who mattered in science in 2018, has been named Director of Gene By Gene’s newly formed Investigative Genetic Genealogy Unit.

Gene By Gene, known in the direct-to-consumer business as FamilyTreeDNA, was the first company to market direct-to-consumer DNA testing, and first to provide familial matching through a person’s DNA signature. “Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter pioneered law enforcement’s most revolutionary crime-solving tool since the fingerprint,” says president and founder, Bennett Greenspan. “We are excited to have a genealogist of Dr. Rae-Venter’s caliber working with us to set industry-leading standards for investigative genetic genealogy.”

The Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Sexual Assault Kit Task Force Pilot Program to Perform Genealogical Database Searches to Identify Rapists

Cuyahoga County will use a new federal grant to hire a private lab to conduct genealogical searches in hopes of identifying up to 10 “John Doe” rape suspects. Since 2013, the prosecutor’s office has secured 146 “John Doe” indictments based on DNA profiles found in rape kits that did not result in a hit or match identifying a suspect.

The genealogical pilot project will be paid for with a federal grant, which is one of two that total $3 million. The grants were awarded to the prosecutor’s office, which leads the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, by the U.S. Department of Justice. The grants also will allow the task force to complete more than 1,200 sexual assault investigations that remain open, including paying for training, victim advocacy, research and travel expenses.

You can read more in an article by Rachel Dissell in The Plain Dealer web site at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn191002.

The Messy Consequences of DNA and the Golden State Killer Case

From an article by Sarah Zhang in the highly-respected The Atlantic web site:

“Tools meant to reunite families are now being used essentially to get families to put their members in jail.”

While few of us anticipated the intersection of genealogical DNA databases and police cases, many of us were intrigued when the combined efforts of law enforcement and a genealogist resulted in the identification of the suspected Golden State Killer last year. Now that precedent has opened the field to other cases, questions arise surrounding the ethical and legal aspects of these unforeseen applications.

Here are a few other quotes from the same article:

“Police officers were uploading crime-scene DNA to genealogical databases without any formal oversight, and prominent genealogists disagreed bitterly on how far they should be let in. The debate became so toxic that genealogy groups on Facebook banned any discussion of law enforcement. Decades-old accusations—unrelated to genealogy—were dragged up to discredit vocal members. People were blocked. Friendships ended. At a genealogy conference in June, the different sides ignored each other from opposite ends of the bar.”

MyHeritage DNA Uncover Rugby Legends Origins

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage:

As the biggest rugby event of the year gets underway in Japan, we wanted to share an exciting project we’ve been working on. In the run-up to the tournament, we brought together 4 rugby legends to see if they share more in common than a love of rugby and to find out if their DNA comes from places other than the countries they represented for so many years.

Rugby DNA website

Each of the players took a MyHeritage DNA test, and we brought them together to reveal their ethnicity breakdown, information about their DNA Matches, and share some family history research that we uncovered, including historical records and photos of their ancestors.

4 RUGBY LEGENDS UNCOVER THEIR ORIGINS WITH MYHERITAGE DNA

U.S. Justice Department Sets Rules for Using Genealogy Sites to Solve Crimes

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has released new rules governing when police can use genetic genealogy to track down suspects in serious crimes—the first-ever policy covering how these databases, popular among amateur genealogists, should be used in law enforcement attempts to balance public safety and privacy concerns.

The policy generally limits law enforcement to considering genealogy sites when a candidate sample belongs to a possible culprit, or when a likely homicide victim is unidentified. Prosecutors can greenlight the use of these sites for violent crimes beyond murder and sexual assault, but only when the circumstances create a “substantial and ongoing threat” to the public. Agencies can’t use the sites unless a sample has first been uploaded to the FBI’s DNA profile database and hasn’t produced a match. Also, the investigators in the relevant jurisdiction need to have followed “reasonable investigative leads,” and case info need to be entered into national databases for missing people and violent criminals.

As Made-To-Order DNA Gets Cheaper, Keeping It Out Of The Wrong Hands Gets Harder

Researching one’s DNA ancestry is a fascinating project. Studying your own DNA or the DNA of your close relatives can be life-saving. However, MODIFYING the DNA of anyone or anything is a very scary topic! Even though it sounds like science fiction, DNA modifications are already being done and undoubtedly this field of science is going to expand.

Details may be found in an article by Nell Greenfield-Byce in the NPR web site at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn190924a.