All is Not Well in the DNA Business

decodeme The lousy economy is having a dramatic effect on most business today, and that includes some of the high-tech genetic & DNA related businesses that have come to life over the last few years.

Now we find that deCODE Genetics, an Icelandic biotech company, and the folks behind DeCodeMe.com, is in some serious financial trouble. According to reports just released, as of the end of 2008, the company had liquid funds available for operating activities, comprised of cash and cash equivalents together with current investments, of 3.7 million dollars. Compare that to the $64.2 million exactly one year before. The company believes it can continue operations into the 2nd quarter of this year (that quarter starts in about than 5 hours, folks).

From what I’ve read, the company did some really good work, accessing its unique assets (access to the DNA, health and genealogical records of a large proportion of the Icelandic population) to answer fundamental questions about human genetics. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen their studies quoted in various articles.

As you can see, the economic downturn is worldwide, and will continue to have worldwide consequences. It effects all of us… and, sad to say, it will continue to get worse.

Read more about deCODE Genetics and their current financial situation in the March 31, 2009 edition of scienceblogs.com

Genetic Discrimination is a Fact in Some Countries

According to an article by Ozlem Susler, in the March 27, 2009 edition of ScienceAlert, genetic discrimination is already a fact in Australia. Unlike the United States, where the “Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act” was enacted in 2008, Australia currently has no such protections. They are looking at it however. Check out Susler’s column. It’s interesting… Following is a teaser.

The brave new world of genetic screening to identify any genetic predisposition to particular diseases has opened a Pandora’s box in the sciencealertrealms of equality, human rights and social justice to name a few. Geller et al have defined genetic discrimination as the differential treatment of individuals or their relatives on the grounds of actual or presumed hereditary differences.

It must be conceded that the advantage of genetic screening at birth or an early age, enables carefully planned medical management aimed to postpone the onset, effectively treat, and possibly cure genetically based conditions. The other side of the coin is not as encouraging, such genetic information may be used by organisations such as life insurance companies to restrict or deny insurance on the grounds of family history of disease or the results of genetic screening, which is argued to amount to genetic discrimination.

Read the full article.

Genetic Data From the 1630s Saves Lives

The following News Release was written by American Chemical Society staff:

A Utah family from 1900, one of the many that appear in the Utah Population Database. This particular family did not carry the colon cancer gene. Courtesy of Geri Mineau, University of Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY, March 25, 2009 – In the 1630s, the Fry family came to the New World with more than just dreams of prosperity and freedom — they also came with a genetic mutation that increased the likelihood of colon cancer in hundreds, if not thousands, of their descendants. The scientists who traced that gene back almost 370 years are now reporting that routine screening and education can prevent people with the mutated gene from developing cancer.

Their new report on Mr. and Mrs. George Fry, who likely arrived in Massachusetts colony aboard the William & Mary, was presented today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Deb Neklason, Ph.D., and colleagues explained how they used cancer records and a massive genealogic archive known as the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to trace the genetic condition to a Utah pioneer family and their 7,000 descendents. A New York family with the same genetic condition was also linked to the Utah group, which helped trace the two families back 16 generations to the Frys. The gene mutation causes a condition known as attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP). AFAP causes the growth of colorectal polyps that have the potential to become cancerous.

People with the AFAP mutation have about a two in three risk of getting colon cancer, compared to about one in 24 for the general population. Once aware they have inherited the gene, these individuals usually follow a regimen of periodic screening for the polyps with colonoscopy, and removal of suspicious growths, in an effort to avoid cancer.

Continue reading “Genetic Data From the 1630s Saves Lives”

DNA Proves That Two Persons on Opposite Sides of the World Are Siblings

John Smithers had spent more than six decades looking for clues about the father who abandoned the family when he was just a baby. The barrel-chested, brash-talking Smithers had something he wanted to give his old man: a fist in the nose.

At 82, he had about given up on ever learning what happened to James William Smithers. The Raleigh, N.C., man had long suspected his father got in trouble with the law and fled abroad. Decades ago, it was easy enough to disappear, and Smithers’ father had seemingly vanished into thin air.

On the other side of the world, Lucinda Gray had always wondered what her father’s life was like before he moved mysteriously from the United States to Australia. She had spent years just trying to find out his real name.

In December, Smithers and Gray learned their elusive fathers were one and the same.

Read the full article in the March 23, 2009 edition of ScrippsNews.

Early American Family History Explores How DNA Testing Can Reveal a Hidden Ancestry

In Revisiting Anne Marie: How an Amerindian Woman of Seventeenth-Century Nova Scotia and a DNA Match Redefine American Heritage, Marie Rundquist shows how a single, Native American DNA test proved her documented French-European lineage invalid, calling an American heritage into question.

revisitingannemarieGAITHERSBURG, Md. (MMD Newswire) March 19, 2009 – In Revisiting Anne Marie: How an Amerindian Woman of Seventeenth-Century Nova Scotia and a DNA Match Redefine American Heritage, Marie Rundquist details how she traced her family genealogy through 12 generations back to an ancient Amerindian woman of 17th century Nova Scotia and re-discovered her family’s hidden Acadian-Mi’kmaq beginnings in the New World.

According to the author, many people turn to DNA testing to discover their roots – and the results are sometimes shocking. Now, in Revisiting Anne Marie, Rundquist shows how a DNA test overturned everything she thought she knew about her own carefully mapped ancestry. After tracing her maternal ancestry to Anne Marie of 17th-century Port Royal Nova Scotia, Rundquist resolved to come to know her forgotten ancestor and her extended family once again. In Revisiting Anne Marie, Rundquist brings her ancestors’ untold stories to light, visits archives, travels to Nova Scotia, follows her ancestors’ ancient routes and discovers the key to her family’s survival in an old Mi’kmaq legend.

DNA testing, Rundquist believes, provides a method of reconnecting to ancestors and present-day cousins, as well as illuminating a heritage that otherwise might remain unknown. She writes how DNA testing works and offers practical advice on how readers can use the results to trace and explore their own unique lineage.

For more information or to request a free review copy, members of the press can contact the author at mrundqui@starpower.net.Revisiting Anne Marie: How an Amerindian Woman of Seventeenth-Century Nova Scotia and a DNA Match Redefine “American” Heritage
is available for sale online at Amazon.com.

About the Author
Marie Rundquist is a software consultant and project administrator of the Amerindian Ancestry Out of Acadia Family Tree DNA Project. In 2007, she founded the Family Heritage Research Community to celebrate her family’s restoration of heritage through research and publication of histories and to support others in similar efforts. Her articles have been featured in several historical publications including Le Chainon, The Searcher of the Southern California Genealogical Society and Michigan’s Habitant Heritage.

Cleopatra May Have Had African Ancestry

Itcleopatra seems that Cleopatra, often thought to have had Greek – Caucasian ancestry, may also have had African ancestry. I know – Elizabeth Taylor didn’t look African at all in Cleopatra. But keep in mind that she was just an actress, playing the part (rather well, by the way).

The remains of her sister, Princess Arsinoe, were found in a tomb in Ephesus, Turkey. Those remains seem to reveal that the siblings had a part-African background. It is believed that Cleopatra ordered her Roman lover, Mark Antony, to murder her. I guess that’s called “sibling rivalry.”

Upcoming BBC Documentary presenter and archaeologist Neil Oliver has said: “It was like a splash of cold water in the face to be confronted by them as human beings. When I stood in the lab and handled the bones of Cleopatra’s blood sister – knowing that in her lifetime she touched Cleopatra and perhaps Julius Caesar and Mark Antony as well – I felt the hairs go up on the back of my neck. Suddenly these giant figures from history were flesh and blood.”

The documentary will examine events in Cleopatra’s life, including her affair with Caesar, the murder of her two brothers and her pact with Mark Antony to murder Arsinoe.

If you have access to BBC television, you may view “Cleopatra: Portrait of a Killer” at 9 pm on BBC One on Monday, March 23.

Read more about the upcoming documentary in the March 15, 2009 edition of The Telegraph.

Also see an article in the Times Online – complete with a picture of what Arsinoe may have looked like.

Putative Grandson Christopher Knight Capone is Looking for Answers

alcaponemugshot

CHICAGO, March 13 /PRNewswire/ – Yesterday in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, Christopher Knight Capone, the putative grandson of the most notorious crime figure in American history Al Capone, filed a complaint requesting the court to enter an order protecting the interred remains of his grandfather Alphonse Capone.

Christopher Capone (www.ChrisCapone.com) has conducted several years of in-depth historical and genealogical research in order to confirm his true identity, with the assistance of a professional team including a well-respected genealogist, forensic genetic genealogist, and numerous private investigators. The extensive research and historic findings give Chris good cause to believe that his deceased father, William Knight, was the hidden son of Alphonse Capone and his wife Mary. Much of the research is contained in his memoir, Son of Scarface: A Memoir by the Grandson of Al Capone

Before filing the complaint Knight requested DNA from living Capone descendants. “The other Capone descendents refused to provide DNA samples, and I respect that,” said Christopher Knight Capone. “Similar to an orphan searching for their birth parents, I’m trying to learn my father’s ancestry while confirming my own, and I hope they will respect that.”

The complaint Knight Capone filed seeks merely to prevent any attempt to move or disturb the remains while Chris completes his quest for voluntary DNA samples from living Capone relatives, which he plans to use in an attempt to definitively establish his genetic link to Al Capone.

“My goal is to definitively and conclusively prove my lineage. I’m continuing to explore all possible opportunities and while I’d prefer a different route, the motion was filed to protect this, one of the last remaining options,” said Capone.

In addition, Chris is presently conducting genealogical research into the distant Italian Capone relatives in hopes of locating other living relatives willing and suitable to provide DNA.

Al Capone died on January 25, 1947 and shortly thereafter his body was buried in Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois, a cemetery owned and operated by the Catholic Bishop of Chicago. The complaint filed today also seeks discovery of the identity of any family members who may require notice should Chris seek a disinterment order from the court.

Christopher Knight Capone is represented by David M. Hundley of the Hundley Law Group, a firm which focuses on trial and appellate litigation serving both individuals and the Chicago plaintiff’s trial bar. He is also represented by Steven C. Beer of Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Contact Information:
Sabrina Levine – LGPR
(212) 966-5000
Jeremy Marin – Marin Strategies
(617) 947-2409
www.sonofscarface.com; www.chriscapone.com

SOURCE Christopher Knight Capone

From the March 13, 2009 edition of prnewswire.com.

GeneTree’s Free Family Web Site Now Out of Beta with New Interface & Rich Features

The following was written by GeneTree staff:

  • After More Than a Year of Development, GeneTree’s Free Web Site Provides an Easy Way for Families to Communicate on an Everyday Basis; to Share and Store Family Photos, Video and Documents; and to Build Extended Family Trees.
  • Simple and Powerful Genetic Genealogy Options Also Allow Families to Explore Ancestral DNA and Discover Previously Unknown Relatives and Ancestors on Both Maternal and Paternal Sides through World’s Most Extensive Correlated Genetic Genealogy Database.

SALT LAKE CITY (March 9, 2009)GeneTree today announced its free family Web site has completed beta testinggenetreelogo and now offers those who sign in a simple, intuitive way to regularly communicate with their extended family and to securely share and store family contact information, personal profiles, photos, video and ancestry documents. Advanced features now available through GeneTree’s redesigned graphic interface include GEDCOM file-format import for family tree collaboration, paternal line genetic genealogy and an all-new family tree building tool.

“We are very pleased to provide families with this fun and easy way to regularly connect and stay close to each other regardless of how scattered they may be geographically,” said GeneTree President and COO Matt Cupal. “GeneTree has the most complete set of features available for sharing family stories, but we go further by fully integrating genetic genealogy options for those who would like to use family DNA to search for living relatives and ancestors.”

A new Y-DNA genetic test enables individuals to research paternal line connections of a male relative, and complements GeneTree’s existing maternal line mtDNA test. Y-DNA results show ancestry and connections to DNA cousins within the past few hundred years.

The opportunity to find and connect with “lost” or unknown extended family members through the world’s most extensive correlated genetic genealogy database is a compelling GeneTree feature. “My 82-year-old mother was almost in tears when I told her we had found a branch of our family through GeneTree that we had lost touch with long ago,” said Rosemary Totton, of Auckland, New Zealand. “Now we are back in contact and I’m excited to learn one of my cousins has old family photos to share with us. In the future we may look at our family’s Y-DNA, as well. This has opened a new door for me.”

Another powerful new GeneTree feature promotes collaboration on ancestry information by allowing the upload of GEDCOM files. GEDCOM is the most common genealogy file format used by all major family history Web sites and software applications. The all-new family tree builder allows an individual to choose a preferred layout, create trees of more than 1,000 relatives and to invite others to join the network and view the chart.

Powerful photo- and video-sharing tools organize a family’s digital media into albums and allow them to be seen by others. Family members can collaborate on identifying people in photos, and photo tagging allows a person easy tracking of all photos in which they appear. Tagging photos automatically sends out invitations to people named.

A new GeneTree family news feature keeps relatives continuously in the loop. Family members update their own news daily and at the end of the week, a digest is automatically emailed to others on their list. A birthday reminder automatically sends out a birthday greeting on the morning of a relative’s birthday. In addition, a feature unique to GeneTree allows users to record a biological relative’s DNA profile as their own for purposes of searching for DNA cousins and to extend their own genealogy chart. Families can divide the cost of testing one member and then share results.

“We believe every family should take advantage of our free Web site,” said Cupal. “This is the best way for relatives to stay connected, share memories, build family trees and securely share and store documents. With GeneTree, it is easier than ever to build a lasting legacy for your own family.”

About GeneTree
GeneTree (www.genetree.com) is a free family Web site enabling relatives to easily communicate on an everyday basis; to securely share contact information, personal profiles, photos, video and other family documents; and to build family trees. GeneTree also provides individuals with the option to integrate industry-leading DNA testing into family history research for a scientific window into their ancestry and to find living relatives for whom no paper records exist. GeneTree users are linked to the world’s most extensive correlated genetic genealogy database.

According to DNA, “Roots” Author, Alex Haley, is Descended From a Scotsman

alexhaleyIt is being reported that DNA testing has revealed that Alex Haley was descended from a Scotsman.

Researchers have found that his nephew, Chris Haley, is distantly related to June Baff-Black. She is from South Wales and has traced her lineage back to seventeenth-century Scotland.

Haley’s best-selling novel, “Roots,” told the story of how his mother was descended from an African man who was kidnapped and forced into into slavery. This new DNA evidence supports anecdotes that another ancestor was a white man who worked on a slave plantation.

Haley’s nephew Chris, provided a cheek swab for DNA testing. The sample revealed he was related to June Baff-Black, who had submitted a DNA sample taken from her father. They met at the “Who Do You Think You Are?” event in London on Saturday.

Read more about Haley and his Scots connection in the March 3, 2009 edition of the Herald de Paris.

DNA Seminar in Marion Indiana May 30, 2009 – Featuring Megan Smolenyak

The following announcement was just received from Rhonda Stoffer, Head of Indiana History and Genealogy Services at the Marion Public Library:

The Marion Public Library in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College, Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, Howard County Genealogical Society, Indiana Genealogy Society and many others will present a one day workshop on May 30, 2009.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak will present 5 sessions on Using DNA in Genealogy Research at the Ivy Tech Community College campus in Marion, Indiana.

The cost for the one day seminar is only $65 if you register by April 1, and includes all sessions, lunch and evening banquet. For more information or to obtain a registration form visit our website at: http://www.marion.lib.in.us/departments/indianahistory/dna/dna_workshop.htm, or call 765-668-2900 ext 153.

Looking for Viking Ancestry in the North of England

VikingsScientists are studying the extent of Viking ancestory in men who live in the north of England. They are are looking for volunteers for the DNA study. The scientists wish to recruit male volunteers whose grandfather was born in Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Durham or Northumberland.

It seems they are analysing the Y chromosomes, but are also interesed in the surnames, since they are passed down from generation to generation.

Read more about the Viking study in the article found in the January 29, 2009 edition of the Westmoreland Gazette.

Ancestry.com Offering 33-Marker Paternal Testing for $79

The following was written by Ancestry.com staff:

Provo, Utah, January 27, 2009 — Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online resource for family history, has reduced the prices of its genetic ancestrydnagenealogy DNA tests, allowing consumers more affordable access to the family history information provided by these tests.

Effectively immediately, the 33-marker paternal lineage test is now only $79 (down from $149). The paternal lineage test analyzes DNA in the Y chromosome, which is passed virtually unchanged from father to son. Advanced paternal lineage tests, maternal lineage tests (which looks at mitochondrial DNA passed from a mother to her children), and combination paternal and maternal lineage testing options are also part of the product suite.

With similar DNA tests typically costing more than $150, the new $79 price offers individuals the best available value for genetic genealogy DNA testing. Test options priced in the $79 range usually test fewer markers and are less genealogically useful.

“Ancestry.com has built a reputation synonymous with family history, and we think that DNA testing is a great complement to membership in our core service,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com. “Our very clear goal is to build the world’s largest database of genetic genealogy results. Substantially reducing the price of our 33-marker paternal lineage test will allow more people than ever before to unlock the mystery of their ancient origins and to find living relatives from around the world.”

Ancestry.com has one of the fastest-growing genetic genealogy databases in the world — helping more and more of its members to extend the branches of their family trees, discover living relatives they never knew existed and find new leads where traditional paper trails dead end. “The acquisition of more DNA participants will benefit family historians, genetic genealogists and researchers seeking colorful facts about their family histories,” Sullivan added. In addition, users who were tested with other genetic genealogy testing services can enter their test results and compare with others in the Ancestry.com DNA database, the only online DNA database that offers this functionality.

As part of their test results, participants receive:

  • Ancient Haplogroup determination with information about that group and a map of their migrations
  • Online results that can help to potentially identify genetic cousins
  • Access to the rapidly expanding, searchable Ancestry.com DNA database

With the launch of the expanded DNA testing options, Ancestry.com has also introduced tools that allow users to add their DNA results to their online family trees. DNA results are inferred to all relevant members in the family tree, multiplying users’ chances to find and make connections with genetic cousins who might not otherwise see their results. Since July 2006, more than 8.3 million family trees have been created online at Ancestry.com.

About Genetic Genealogy:
Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing to determine the genetic relationship between individuals. The two most common types of genetic genealogy tests are Y chromosome DNA (paternal line) and mitochondrial DNA (maternal line). Genetic genealogy provides a means to validate or supplement historical records with genetic data. There are many benefits including the ability to confirm or refute existing or suspected family connections. It may also help to determine the ancestral continent of origin or homeland and find living relatives. Genetic genealogy DNA tests do not provide conclusions regarding propensity toward disease or disclose information about inherited traits.

About Ancestry and The Generations Network
The Generations Network, Inc., through its flagship Ancestry.com property, is the world’s leading resource for online family history. Ancestry.com has local websites in nine countries and has digitized and put online over 7 billion names and 27,000 historical records collections over the past ten years. Since July 2006, Ancestry.com users have created more than 8.3 million family trees containing 810 million profiles and 15 million photographs and stories. The Generations Network also includes myfamily.com, Genealogy.com, Rootsweb.ancestry.com, MyCanvas.com, dna.ancestry.com, Family Tree Maker and Ancestry Magazine. More than 7.7 million unique visitors spent over 4.5 million hours on a TGN website in November 2008 (comScore Media Metrix, Worldwide).

Courtesy of Anatasia Tyler

DNA Tracks Descendants of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian in Southeast Alaska

George Bryson wrote an interesting DNA-related article for the AP out of Anchorage, Alaska. I find it amazing as to how much we’re learning from all these DNA studies be undertaken. Following is a teaser from Bryson’s article:

An ancient mariner [On Your Knees Cave man, the 10,300-year-old Alaskan whose remains were discovered 12 years ago in a shallow cavern on Prince of Wales Island] who lived and died 10,000 years ago on an island west of Ketchikan probably doesn’t have any close relatives left in Alaska.

But some of them migrated south and their descendants can be found today in coastal Native American populations in California, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.

That’s some of what scientists learned this summer by examining the DNA of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians in Southeast Alaska.

Working with elders at a cultural festival in Juneau, they interviewed more than 200 Native Alaskans who allowed them to swab tiny amounts of saliva from their cheeks to capture their mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material that’s passed from mothers to children.

Read Brysons’ full article in the January 10, 2009 edition of News From Indian Country.

Mitochondrial DNA Services from Relative Genetics and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation

“Relative Genetics, the leading provider of DNA testing services for individuals and families researching ancestry, today [September 19, 2006] announced the availability of enhanced mitochondrial DNA testing services that dramatically improve the accuracy and reach of maternal lineage information.

“Mitochondrial DNA is passed exclusively from mothers to their children, providing a dependable way to trace maternal ancestries for both men and women. The most accurate way to distinguish the genetic profile of one individual’s maternal lineage from another’s and to identify deep ancestral origins is through analysis of genetic sequences from three “hypervariable” regions of the mitochondrial DNA. The new Relative Genetics mitochondrial DNA testing includes analysis of these three regions, adding great detail and precision to the results. Relative Genetics already offers the industry’s leading Y-chromosome DNA testing services for paternal lineage research.

“In addition, Relative Genetics has enhanced its mitochondrial DNA sequencing and Y-chromosome genotyping services by including a haplogroup predictor with each test, at no extra cost. This analysis uses the results of DNA tests — mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome or both — to assign individuals to a haplogroup that can identify their deep ancestral origins and may detect geographic origins going back tens of thousands of years.”

Jamestowne Project Underway

My friend, Jim Petty, has teamed up with other Utah firms and taken on a massive project. That project is to link up Jamestowne Colony Descendents. No small undertaking…

This partnership combines genealogy, family history and DNA genetics to link nations and people in celebrating “America’s 400th Anniversary” There is a possibility of 145,000,000 descendants.

“Salt Lake City, UT (PRWEB) August 1, 2006 — Heirlines Family History & Genealogy is merging genealogy with modern science. It has teamed up with Relative Genetics and GenealogyFound to show that after 400 years millions of Americans can trace their family tree back to the Jamestowne colony and Colonial Virginia. DNA testing and genealogical research is combining to help Jamestown descendants jump the pond and find their immigrant origins from Europe and other nations.

“The year 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of the original Jamestown settlement — the first permanent English colony in what is now the United States of America. Heirlines, Relative Genetics, and GenealogyFound are using traditional genealogy along with genetic genealogy to link millions of living people to their roots in that 17th Century colony. They are building a public database of Jamestown and 17th Century Colonial Virginia descendants that will be available beginning in 2007.

“Doug Arnett, COB of GenealogyFound a non-profit foundation based in Salt Lake City, is promoting “Historic Event Genealogy” projects world-wide. Arnett said he thinks the Jamestown 2007 project will awaken the spirit of family history in many Americans as well as people in many foreign countries.
“We want to build an Internet research database for everyone, and spark a patriotic sense of ‘Maybe my ancestors came through Jamestowne’. People will be excited to tie into this historic time period and location,” Arnett remarked.

“Peggy Hayes, director of sales and marketing for Relative Genetics, commented that she expects this database to leave a lasting legacy.”