The Copernican Principle

I saw a recent article in the New York Times, “A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization” that grabbed my attention.I know it isn’t necessarily related to DNA, but I loved the article and the essence behind it, The Copernican Principle.

The Copernican Principle, is named after Nicolaus Copernicus, who stated that the Earth is not in a central, specially favored position.Although it might look like our galaxy is the center of the Universe, observers in all other galaxies would observe the same thing.This idea has been applied to the field of statistics.For example, if you are observing something and your location is not special, then you are observing the thing at a random point during its existence.That is, there is a 95% chance that you are seeing it in the middle 95% of its existence, and not during the beginning 2.5%, or the last 2.5%.That idea can be expressed using the following formula:

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Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam

In the past decade, scientists have repeatedly referred to ‘Mitochondrial Eve‘, the (hypothesized) source of mtDNA for all humans alive today.  She is believed to have lived approximately 140,000 years ago in Africa.  There is also ‘Y-chromosomal Adam‘, the (hypothesized) source of every living man’s Y-DNA.  He is also believed to have lived in Africa, but more recently, between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago.  Thus, Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromsomal Adam were not a couple – they were not the source of all human genetic material on the planet today.  Instead, the terms refer to the founders of all the mtDNA and Y-DNA respectively.

For a wonderful description of some of the genetic behind Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromsomal Adam, go to “The Questionable Authority“, a blog which is part of Scienceblogs.  While you’re there, be sure to read the comments, where the discussion addresses the time disparity between the two DNA sources (140,000 years ago versus 60-90,000 years ago).

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A Map to The Genetic Genealogist

I think it is every blogger’s dream to have thousands of readers and rss subscribers waiting for your every post and checking the blog for new information first thing in the morning.Of course, there are very few blogs like that.People typically find new blogs through a variety of means, including links from other blogs, links from social networks or directories, and often through search portals.Here are the current top 15 searches that lead people to The Genetic Genealogist:

  • 23andme
  • genetic genealogist
  • amish genealogy database
  • genetic genealogy
  • anne wojcicki
  • craig venter
  • free matriclan & patriclan dna tests
  • wireless healthcare
  • robson encyclopedia
  • afro-brazilian roots bbc research
  • amish genetic mutations
  • blaine bettinger
  • reunio cohanim
  • mitomap
  • dna african american kittles

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Autosomal Genetic Testing

 

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Yesterday I posted a link to an article in the UK Guardian, “The genes that build America” in which the author attempted to summarize some of the recent controversial topics in genealogical research, including DNA testing.

For at least one of my readers, the article represented everything that is wrong with DNA testing, specifically the assignment of racial/ethnic percentages based on the results of autosomal testing.

In the past, I’ve tried to be as impartial as possible when discussing autosomal testing. As I’ve learned, however, being impartial can also be unfair and misleading. So, I’ve decided to get a little more personal and share my thoughts about autosomal testing.

In a single sentence, autosomal testing is simply too new and underdeveloped to be of much informative use for genealogists or the average public, at least in its current stage. This statement, I hope, will be completely incorrect in a few years as whole genome sequencing becomes affordable. Assigning percentages (as autosomal tests do) will only work when the entire genome can be sequenced and examined and analyzed. Short of whole genome sequencing (and maybe comprehensive SNP testing – as in millions of SNPs), I don’t believe that autosomal is worth the effort.

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Genetic Genealogy in the Observer

The Observer has an article, “The genes that build America” which is a summary of every popular genetic genealogy new story to appear in the past year.From the story header:

“From the discovery that presidential hopeful Barack Obama is descended from white slave owners to the realisation that the majority of black Americans have European ancestors, a boom in ‘recreational genetics’ is forcing America to redefine its roots. Paul Harris pieces together the DNA jigsaw of what it really means to be born in the USA.”

Thanks to Hsien at EyeonDNA.

Should Genes be Patentable?

Hsien at EyeonDNA has a great post about patenting genes, including a poll and a discussion in the comments.

Dr. Lei links to a recent symposium on the topic at the Genetics & Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins and mentions legislation proposed in February 2007 that would ban the patenting of human genetic material.

I think it would be great if you stopped by and voted, or left your thoughts in the comments. This is a very controversial topic, and it would be very interesting to see how others feel about it!

Genetic Genealogy in Brazil

The BBC has an article about genetic genealogy testing of nine celebrities in Brazil for a project called Afro-Brazilian Roots by the Brazilian Service of the BBC. These lucky individuals received Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal testing, and most were surprised with the large proportion of European genealogy revealed by the tests.

“Brazil has more people with black ancestry than any other nation outside Africa, and its mix of Indians, Africans and Europeans gave rise in the past to the claim that the country was a ‘racial democracy.’ ”

“No one is pure in Brazil. That’s why the country has the face of the future,” said Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., coordinator of a similar project in the U.S.”

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Wireless Healthcare

Wireless Healthcare, a company based in England, recently released a report entitled “Wireless Based Disease Management: Google, Microsoft and IBM in the Healthcare Market.” Naturally, I can’t read this report because it costs almost $400 USD. I noticed it, however, because it addresses the impact of online availability of genomic/genetic testing results. Specifically, the report addresses (at least I believe it does!) the advisability of online advertising displayed alongside health care records.

According to news releases and a blog post:

“Wireless Healthcare forecast patients gaining access to their genetic profile and managing their health using an online patient record, but they expressed doubts about the efficacy of banner advertisements as revenue model for companies that offer such services.”

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