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Genetic Linkage

Selling Yourself: There’s a Growing Market for Your DNA Data

On December 5, the US Securities and Exchange Commission gave the go-ahead for LunaDNA to offer ownership shares to people providing their “personal health information,” including their DNA data.

The SEC thumb’s up may be a first, but it follows in the footsteps of Nebula Genomics, which Harvard’s George Church founded in 2016. The Nebula strategy: “Get sequenced. Discover your DNA and ancestry. Become one of the first to profit from your own genomic data.” (However, the public launch of LunaDNA was in December 2017, but Nebula in February 2018).

Both celestially-named companies connect consumers who have access to their DNA findings to researchers whose projects require a critical mass of data. Everyone wins. And in the process, the economics of human DNA sequencing has completely turned around. DNA data are now information for sale.

Remember the decade when sequencing the first human genome came with a $2.7 billion price tag?

To continue reading go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this article first appeared. Read More 

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Precision Medicine Initiative: Ricki's Pick for Breakthrough of the Year

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‘Tis the season for Science magazine to name their Breakthrough of the Year, a designation that typically irks me because it implies that science happens suddenly and we all know that of course it doesn’t.

FROM MAN TO MOLECULE TO BREAKTHROUGH
The Breakthrough of the Year began as the Molecule of the Year, which began in 1989 inspired by Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, before said magazine realized that half of us are female. Early Molecules of the Year included such celebrities as p53 and nitric oxide. Read More 
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Sequencing the Genomes of Dead People

Last Wednesday, at “Career Night” during the American Society of Human Genetics annual conference in Baltimore, I was stationed next to Robert Steiner, MD, from the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Wisconsin. With young scientists circling us like electrons around nuclei, I never got the chance to break away to talk to him. But I did overhear him discussing the Genomic Postmortem Research Project, an effort to sequence the genomes of 300 dead people.

I was fascinated.

Would knowing the information encoded in the DNA of the deceased have changed their health care? I went to the talk on the project the next day to find out about this clever test of the value of genome sequencing. Read More 
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Using the Genetic Code for Passwords

Many years ago, a friend was helping me set up a desktop computer. When the time came to choose a password, he said it should be:

• Alphanumeric
• More than 7 numbers or letters
• Obvious to me, but not to anyone else

The genetic code popped into my mind, and has remained an endless source of diverse passwords, valuable because they may seem nonsensical to non-biologists.  Read More 
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DNA and Dating: Buyer Beware

Is DNA dating destiny?
Last week’s post dealth with three very serious applications of DNA testing. But not all DNA testing is to detect health-threatening conditions.

“Born to Run? Little Ones Get Test for Sports Gene,” ran the headline on the front page of the New York Times, above an arresting image of a preschooler having his mouth swabbed for DNA. It’s from 2008, but remains a classic: I still assign it.

The sports gene company is apparently still around and still testing for variants in just one gene: ACTN3. Two copies of the R577X variant indicate inborn skill at endurance events, and no copies suggest a child stick to sprints. The lucky heterozygotes might excel at both! Never mind that a child has some 20,000 or so other genes affecting physiology.

DISSECTING A DNA DATING WEBSITE
The most damage a sports gene test can do is to keep a child from doing something she loves because of a DNA-obsessed parent. A more questionable application of DNA testing is as part of “relationship science,” something I learned about a few weeks ago when a reporter from healthline.com asked me about it. Read More 
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Genetic Testing For All: Is It Eugenics?

(NHGRI)
In recent weeks, there’s been talk of three types of genetic testing transitioning from targeted populations to the general public: carrier screens for recessive diseases, tests for BRCA cancers, and non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to spot extra chromosomes in fetuses from DNA in the maternal bloodstream.

Are these efforts the leading edge of a new eugenics movement? It might appear that way, but I think not.

When I began providing genetic counseling 30 years ago at CareNet, a large ob/gyn practice in Schenectady, NY,  Read More 
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Supreme Court BRCA Decision: Use Correct Terminology!

(credit: Dept of Energy)
Earlier today, my “in” box began to fill with info from everyone I’ve ever met letting me know that the Supreme Court had ruled on the Myriad case about patenting the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. I also received a dozen pitches from PR people offering me all manner of instant interviews with lawyers, doctors, bioethicists, and health care analysts.

No one offered me an interview with a geneticist – a person who knows something about DNA. So being such a person myself, I decided to take a look at the decision. And I found an error right smack in the opening paragraph: Read More 
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DNA Day: 20 Years of Writing a Human Genetics Textbook

10 editions of my textbook chronicle the evolution of genomics
This month we celebrate the DNA anniversaries: unveiling of DNA’s structure in 1953, and the human genome sequence in 2003.

From now until DNA Day, April 25, bloggers will be worshipping the human genome. Nature will offer podcasts (“PastCasts”) and last week, Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, spoke to reporters, summarizing the “quantitative advances since the human genome project.”

It’s also the 20th anniversary of my non-science majors textbook, Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications. Writing the 10 editions has given me a panoramic view of the birth of genomics different from those of researchers, physicians, and journalists. Here are a few observations on the evolution of genetics to genomics, as I begin the next edition. Read More 
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Incidental Findings from Genome Sequencing – Nuances and Caveats

A genome sequenced to investigate one disease may reveal another.
You have your genome or exome (the protein-encoding part) sequenced to help diagnose a puzzling set of symptoms, and something totally unrelated, and unexpected, turns up – a so-called “incidental finding.”

Surprises, of course, aren’t new in medicine. The term “incidental finding” comes from “incidentaloma,” coined in 1995 to describe an adrenal tumor found on a scan looking for something else. I had one -- a CT scan of my appendix revealed a polycystic liver. A friend had it much worse. She volunteered to be a control in an Alzheimer’s imaging trial, and her scan revealed two brain aneurysms!

Geneticists have long expected an avalanche of incidental findings from clinical (exome or genome) sequencing. Read More 
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Hidden Meanings in Our Genomes – And What To Do With Mendel

Gregor Mendel: should he stay or should he go (in textbooks)? (National Library of Medicine)
Summer reading for most people means magazines, novels, and similar escapist fare, but for me, it’s the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG). Perusing the table of contents of the current issue tells me what’s dominating this post-genomic era: information beyond the obvious, like a subtext hidden within the sequences of A,  Read More 
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