23andMe and Udacity today announced a new online course entitled “Tales from the Genome: Adventures in DNA, Identity, and Health,” a Massive Open Online Course (“MOOC”) directed at genetics. According to the website, students will learn about “fundamental principles of inheritance, gene expression, mutation and variation, development of simple and complex biological traits, human ancestry and evolution, and the acquisition of personal genetic information.” The class is labeled as being aimed at beginners.
Although not announced on the Udacity website, the course will be available beginning on September 30, 2013.
The “Tales from the Genome” class will be taught by Matthew Cook, Lauren Castellano, Joanna Mountain (of 23andMe), and Uta Francke (also of 23andMe). For more information, see the press release at Market Watch (“23andMe and Udacity Launch Introductory Human Genetics Course“).
At Salon, an article entitled “The college class that could reveal your real father” by Katya Cengel discusses a course at Stanford called “Genetics 210.” The class uses [entirely optional] 23andme testing to explore the many issues associated with genetic testing. Although the class is offered to both graduate and undergraduate students, the class is filled with mostly graduate students.
All students go through the informed consent process carefully, and have access to a genetic counselor and a psychiatrist (although according to the report not a single student has contacted the psychiatrist in the four semesters the course has been offered, and only two have contacted the genetic counselor).
The most interesting aspect of the article, to me, was the complication that identical twins pose to genetic testing. Epigenetic differences aside (which are currently NOT tested), a genetic test for one will directly apply to the other. So what happens when one twin wants to know and the other doesn’t?
There has been much discussion (see here and here for a few examples) of the so-called “Scandinavian Problem” with AncestryDNA‘s ethnicity estimate, in which certain populations appeared to be over-represented in the reference panel utilized by Ancestry.com. I, for example, have no documented Scandinavian ancestry, but had 78% Scandinavian. Many others experienced the same issue.
The AncestryDNA team were well aware of the issues, and have been working on an update to their ethnicity algorithm, reference panel, and user interface. Indeed, at “The First DNA Day at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree” in June of this year, Ken Chahine (Senior Vice President and General Manager, DNA) gave a presentation in which he announced that the ethnicity calculations at AncestryDNA were undergoing a complete overhaul and a major update would be provided to all customers later this year.
Family Tree DNA has announced yet another new sale, with the popular Family Finder being available for only $99 for a limited time:
Dear Valued Customer,
Summer is once again upon us and it is time for our Sizzling Summer event! Our successful summers over the last two years have led us to offer you great values again this year.
We have been working with Illumina to offer our Family Finder autosomal test for only $99 during our summer event. In fact, if we receive enough orders at $99, Illumina may be able to help us keep it at this extremely low of rate of $99!
As you take advantage of our summer event, remember that the permanency of the $99 Family Finder test is actually in your hands!
Beginning on Thursday, June 27, 2013 and running until Friday, July 26, 2013, we will offer the following:
The top bar of the AncestryDNA Member Matches section now looks like this:
Clicking in the “Search matches” box causes the box to expand and reveal the new search boxes:
Both seem to work well, and I suggest you use the search feature to mine your matches. For example, I found a number of matches for several unique surnames and locations in my tree that I had missed in the flood of matches over the past six months.
New Ethnicity Estimates Coming Soon
At “The First DNA Day at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree,” I discussed the changes to the ethnicity algorithms and reference populations that AncestryDNA was planning to implement by the end of 2013:
According to this week’s 23andMe update entitled “Release Notes: 7 June 2013,” (you must log in to view), “The computation time for DNA Relatives and Ancestry Composition has been growing.”
Going into greater detail at “DNA Relatives computations temporarily on hold,” 23andMe explains that due to the increased computational time, and in an effort to reduce the time it takes to generate DNA Relatives matches, updates are paused. Accordingly, “[t]his means that you won’t be receiving new matches to your existing DNA Relatives list, and if you haven’t received your matches yet there may be some additional waiting time.”
DNATraits, a division of Houston-based genomics and genetics testing company Gene By Gene, Ltd., (parent company of Family Tree DNA) just announced a press release regarding today’s decision in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. patent case regarding the human BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
From the press release:
Supreme Court Ruling Today Allows DNATraits to Offer Low Cost BRCA Breast and Ovarian Cancer Gene Testing in U.S.
In effort to increase access to potentially lifesaving BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests, DNATraits can now offer tests for $995, a fraction of the cost of similar tests prior to the court decision
HOUSTON — Jun. 13, 2013 – Thanks to today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision opening the door to greater access to genetic medicine by American patients and their health care providers, testing for genes specifically linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers will now be more widely available and at a lower cost than ever before.
On the heels of a special $49 Autosomal DNA Transfer sale, Family Tree DNA has announced a new FATHER’S DAY SALE! For a very limited time only, Y-DNA upgrades are available at a very reduced price. From the announcement:
Since last summer’s upgrade sale was such huge success, we thought we’d repeat history! We are offering discounts to our Y-DNA upgrade products just in time for father’s day. So, please spread the word and we’ll make this year’s upgrade sale even bigger!
ALL ORDERS MUST BE PLACED AND PAID FOR BY 11:59pm, JUNE 19, 2013, TO RECEIVE THE SALE PRICE.
From June 12, 2013 through June 19, 2013, the following sale prices are available:
Y-DNA 12 to 25 was $49 Now $35
Thanks to Miriam at AnceStories, I learned today that The Genetic Genealogist was named one of the 25 Top Genealogy Blogs by Internet Genealogy! Congrats to Miriam as well, who was also named one of the 25 Top Genealogy Blogs. Miriam has a list of the other 23 sites on her blog.
I haven’t been able to read the article yet, but according to the website here is the description:
Blogged: 25 Top Genealogy Blogs to Help Speed Your Research! Tony Bandy highlights twenty-five blogs you can dig your teeth into.
I’m honored by this, and I think it reflects the increasing interest in DNA and Genetic Genealogy that genealogists continue to express. We’re approaching a critical mass at which point DNA must be part of every genealogists’ toolbox, and at least a consideration in any serious genealogical search.