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Genetic Linkage

I’m a Geneticist. A DNA Test Uncovered a Half-sister and Sparked Painful Questions

In her new book, "Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love," Genealogy, Paternity, and Love," author Dani Shapiro is speaking for tens of thousands of us who are discovering that we are "NPE." Not Parent Expected.


Dani learned that the man who raised her and who she thought was her father was not so, biologically speaking, thanks to a DNA ancestry test.


My own discovery is so overwhelming that I can't talk about it much, even though my new half-sister has possibly saved my life by adding to my known family's cancer history, affecting a recent medical decision. So thank you Dani. Here's a short version of my story, as many of us face the deluge of new cousins coming in from the holiday wave of DNA tests.


Initially ignored


The first email came September 8, 2018:


"AncestryDNA says we're close family, maybe first cousins. My maiden name is Penny Krause. Sound familiar? I grew up in Brooklyn."



To continue reading go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.



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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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Genetics Pioneer James Watson Stripped of Final Honorary Titles over Race Views

James Watson is best known for co-discovering DNA’s 3D structure and for helming the Human Genome Project at the beginning. But he’s also been known more recently for his racist statements. In the latest chapter of the dark side of Dr. Watson, Cold Spring Harbor laboratory issued a statement on January 11 condemning recent comments that he made January 2 on the PBS series “American Masters: Decoding Watson.”

The move effectively removes the final honorary positions held by Dr. Watson at the lab he once helmed.

According to the statement by Cold Spring Harbor lab:

Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students. The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.

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

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Museum Genomes Explain the Plight of the Grauer’s Gorilla

When a population rapidly plummets, the chance sampling of genetic drift and inevitable inbreeding can accelerate the pace of extinction. A new report in Current Biology reveals the genetic evidence behind the dire situation for Grauer’s gorilla.

Ancestral gorillas split into eastern and western species about 150,000 years ago. The western animals then split to yield the western lowland gorilla and the cross river gorilla subspecies. The eastern contingent diverged to give rise to the mountain gorilla and Grauer’s gorilla (aka eastern lowland) subspecies. This last primate lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is critically endangered.

From 5 to 10 million years ago, eastern gorillas were doing just fine. Then about 100,000 years ago, their populations began to decline. About 10,000 years ago they split into the mountain and Grauer’s subspecies. Then from 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, the Grauer’s population took off, expanding so quickly that some dangerous mutations occurred and accrued. Mountain gorilla populations remained fairly small, the numbers not allowing many mutations to accumulate.

Then about twenty years ago, the Grauer’s group hit a population bottleneck, and the numbers crashed down to about 4,000 animals, thanks to habitat destruction and poaching.

To continue reading go to my blog DNA Science, at Public Library of Science, where this article first appeared. Read More 

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How Bandersnatch Mirrors a Cancer Journey

A few minutes into watching the compelling new Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch, in which the viewer chooses the story path, I realized that the experience echoes a journey with breast cancer.

Black Mirror, the brainchild of Charlie Brooker, debuted in the UK in 2011 and migrated to Netflix in 2016. The series imagines the negative effects of technology with stunning prescience, each episode a peek at a different world, with just enough familiarity to unleash a wave of unease. Wrote Mr. Brooker in the new book “Inside Black Mirror,” “I’ve already repeatedly experienced what it’s like when Black Mirror stories slowly manifest themselves in the real world. Not sure that’s going to be much comfort when I’m being chased across an irradiated landscape by an autonomous robot bum-on-legs with the Facebook logo etched on its perineum and a Make America Great Again hat perched on top, but you can’t have everything.”

Black Mirror Takes the Twilight Zone to a Brave New Level

I’ve been hooked since the first episode, which was so disturbing some people never tuned in again. I’ve watched the award-winning San Junipero episode many times, always seeing more. It is genius.

This year, the special Bandersnatch episode debuted at the same time as the annual New Year’s marathon of the Twilight Zone, the inspiration for the series. Beth Elderkin summarized the plot in Gizmodo:

To continue reading go to my blog DNA Science at Public Library of Science, where this article first appeared.
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