Friday Links

This will be somewhat of an introspective Friday Links, looking at what other people have had to say about our recent announcement. We’ll resume our regular programming next week.

It’s been a big week here at Genomes Unzipped, with the announcement that all of the group members have released their genetic data publicly. The announcement was accompanied by a story by Mark Henderson in The Times (subscription only, unfortunately, but also syndicated here) along with commentary from Misha Angrist, Linda Avey and Christine Patch.

You can also listen to Daniel talk about the project on the BBC World Service (starts 19m30s), and Carl on BBC Radio Scotland (starts 38m). Finally, Luke and Daniel were on CBC Radio’s The Current today.

The announcement was also covered by a number of bloggers. Deepak Singh had praise for the project, which was music to our ears, as well as announcing his intention to share his own data with the project in 2011; John Hawks pondered the analogy between the project and a nudist beach, leading to an extended post from Razib Khan exploring the potential impact of community genomics; and Misha Angrist nails his colors to the mast of public genomics. 23andMe’s blog, The Spittoon makes clear that 23andMe don’t endorse Genomes Unzipped, but are nonetheless excited to see what the project gets up to.

It’s been fantastic to see our data already being used by a number of bloggers to make predictions about our ancestry and relatedness. Leon Kull added us to his relative finder, and noted that Carl and Kate seem to be distantly related (sharing 0.51% of their genome IBD, perhaps 4th-7th cousins). Dienekes Pontikos ran our genome scans through his ancestry calculator, EURO-DNA-CALC, with some surprising results: while most of us are (as expected) boringly north-western European, and Dan Vorhaus is Ashkenazi Jewish, several of us showed unexpected components of south-eastern European or Jewish ancestry. However, there’s more to this story: a different analysis performed over at Eurogenes suggested somewhat different results. We’ll be following up these findings with our own analysis early next week.

GNZ Authors have also been discussing the project around the web and beyond. The PGx Reporter interviewed Luke about our new genome browser, and the issues with releasing and visualising public genome data, and the PHG Foundation’s news feed has a few comments from Caroline about her own experience with her data. Daniel discussed the logic behind his decision to take part in the project on Genetic Future, and both he and Caroline talked about Genomes Unzipped at the Royal Institution’s Whose Genome Is It Anyway? event.

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10 Responses to “Friday Links”

  • Crikey, not only unzipped but we (subscribers to the times) can even see Daniel’s face – now there really is no hiding place!

  • You (Times subscriber or no) can even see Daniel’s face, and indeed the faces of all the GNZ crew, on our Members page.

  • Missed that – full disclosure!

  • while most of us are (as expected) boringly north-western European

    what’s so boring about that? :-)

    interesting that eurogenes found something not-boring about joseph pickrell too. though dienekes didn’t put much stock in the ashkenazi component in the end.

    as some of your know my 23andme results seem to indicate atypical amounts of “asian” for a south asian. after sharing my genes with a woman of burmese ancestry and i think i know where that came from. but it made me reinterpret some details of family history a little.

  • Hi guys

    you’ve really made it: featured on BBC Radio 4’s tea-time satire show The News Quiz – – about 2 minutes in!

    [Edit by DM: Thanks Neil – for other readers, it’s actually 20 minutes in, and the direct link to the show is here.]

  • Here are a couple of genetic maps. Keep in mind, I put Don Vorhaus instead of Dan Vorhaus on one of the really large versions that’s on my site. Sorry, I’ll change it today.

  • News quiz: typo – in fact it’s about 20 minutes in.

  • Thanks for the media links. I enjoyed them.

    I guess I will end up taking the job of “fly in the ointment.”

    You’ve all prescreened your DNA before publishing it. So you know there are no surprise, looming diseases on the immediate horizon.

    One of you did mention a predisposition for several diseases, but none of them are going to make an insurance company pack up and head for the hills. Since most of you are in the UK or Europe, this is less of an issue, in any case.

    Had you discovered that you had a predisposition for an early onset cancer, schizophrenia or another early onset incurable disease, would you have published your results? Probably not.

    This would imply that you are pre-filtering the DNA that is published.

    What would happen if someone published their DNA results, unscreened, only to announce to the world at large that they were at high risk of schizophrenia? Given the fact that this illness is highly stigmatized and poorly understood, this person would run the risk of being stigmatized, even if they did not develop the illness.

    It is not just insurance companies who would misuse such information. It could impact this person’s employment, as well as their relationship with their family.

    Publishing your prescreened results does not fully present to the public the general risk of publishing one’s DNA results.

  • Marnie,

    Thanks for the comments. Speaking for myself, I definitely took a look at my results before putting them online, but am not sure anything would have really changed my mind. In fact, 23andMe provides no analysis of a major risk factor for Alzheimers (APOE), and I think someone among us is trying to do such an analysis using this data (based on a quick skim of the literature–eg, here–it should be relatively easy). This sort of thing (the possibility of later analysis revealing major risk factors for incurable diseases) was definitely something I considered before putting any data online, and I imagine it’s the same for other people in the project.


  • Joe,

    Glad to know you guys are thinking about the nuances of the what and who, regarding genomic open sourcing.


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