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The total information world

Credit: Cryteria Happy Thanksgiving (if you are an American)! It’s been a busy few days in the world of personal genomics. By coincidence I have a coauthored comment in Genome Biology out, Rumors of the death of consumer genomics are greatly exaggerated (it was written and submitted a while back). If you haven’t, please read the FDA’s letter, and 23andMe’s response, as much as there is one right now. Since Slate ran my Read more...

The FDA and 23andMe

Polish cavalry 1930s First, download your 23andMe raw results now if you have them. If you don’t know what’s going on, the FDA has finally started to move aggressively against the firm. Unfortunately this is not surprising, as this was foreshadowed years ago. And, 23andMe has been moving aggressively to emphasize its medical, as opposed to genealogical, services over the past year. But this isn’t the story of one firm. This i Read more...

The color of life as a coincidence

Credit: Eric Hunt I do love me some sprouts! Greens, bitters, strong flavors of all sorts. I’ve always been like this. Some of this is surely environment. My family comes from a part of South Asia known for its love of bracing and bold sensation. But perhaps I was born this way? There’s a fair amount of evidence that taste has a substantial genetic component. This does not mean genes determine what one tastes, but it certainly open Read more...

Isn’t he special!

Credit: Marrabbio2 There’s a nice letter in Nature right now with an understated title, Mating advantage for rare males in wild guppy populations. But if you dig deeper you see some moderately grand claims being made. The key issue is that the authors seem to be implying that negative frequency dependent selection (NFDS) is a major factor in maintaining genetic diversity in populations. A reductio ad absurdum of the problem might be to a Read more...

Selection happens; but where, when, and why?

Distribution of SLC452 variation at SNP rs1426654. Credit, HGDP Browser Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, Credit: Andy Jones One of the secondary issues which cropped up with Nina Davuluri winning Miss America is that it seems implausible that someone with her complexion would be able to win any Indian beauty contest. A quick skim of Google images “Miss India” will make clear the reality that I’m alluding to. The Indian beau Read more...

The future always advances

The last week has seen a lot of chatter about the slapping down of the diagnostic patent by Sequenom, Judge Invalidates Patent for a Down Syndrome Test: A federal judge has invalidated the central patent underlying a noninvasive method of detecting Down syndrome in fetuses without the risk of inducing a miscarriage. The ruling is a blow to Sequenom, a California company that introduced the first such noninvasive test in 2011 and has been trying t Read more...

Our forefathers were fierce & our foremothers were faithful

Credit: Chineeb One of the peculiarities of human historical genetics is that people can simultaneously accept the existence of aggressive polygynous males such as Genghis Khan, and promiscuous females who give rise to the idea that 1 out of 10 children have an incorrect assigned paternity. I’ve mentioned the cuckoldry myth before. It is a common evolutionary myth; I’ve heard many biologists quote the 1 out of 10 number, and have o Read more...

Burning down the trees in historical population genetics

A phylogenetic tree is an essential tool in understanding the broad scope of natural history, placing particular lineages in specific evolutionary contexts of relatedness. These sorts of trees range from Ernst Haeckel’s classical attempt, depicting relationships which biologists derived from intuition within the framework of a grand evolutionary scheme, all the way down to modern methods implemented in software packages such as Mr. Bayes, Read more...

The Roma have multitudes

Credit: Dbachmann There was a recent case in Ireland of a young Roma girl who was blonde haired and blue eyed being removed from her home, on the suspcision that she was not in fact the biological child of the presumed parents (who, like most Roma, are reportedly of dark complexion, hair, and eye). I even saw a report that a hospital was consulted on the probability of such an outcome, and they said it would be “extremely unusual”. Read more...

The inferred distribution of grandparental contribution

How much of your genome do you inherit from a particular grandparent? In my write up on variation in inheritance patterns for Slate last week I did not explore the likely quantitative distribution in any detail (frankly, I think that part is confused or muddled at best). My primary focus though was on the empirical reality of variation, which people utilizing personal genomic services will receive, perhaps to their surprise. But in part trigge Read more...