2008 January

Latest Launches at 23andMe

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 22, 2008 in DNA Around the World, DNA Testing

Starting today, 23andMe services are now available in Canada and Europe. (press release) The Guardian attempts to inject a few words of warning to potential customers by quoting Dr. Helen Wallace of GeneWatch:

“Our main concern is that the human genome is set to become a massive marketing scam,” she said, adding that special diet foods and pills had been promoted on the back of tests. “Genetic tests like these are not regulated and the science is still poorly understood – so there is a real danger people could be misled about their health.”

My question is: What isn’t a “scam” nowadays? Do I really need 10 different shades of eyeshadow? Does my five-year-old really need the whole collection of Ben 10 toys (which will never be amassed in our lifetime)? Should we be eating low fat cookies or high protein bread?

You want to know the truth? Everyone’s out to “scam” us. You have to make your own informed decisions about what you’re going to buy into. For some, it could be a genetic test for balding. For others, it could be a $350,000 personal genome sequence. Take some responsibility and initiative and figure out what’s right for you! /rant over

spittle bug spittoon

By the way, 23andMe has also launched their blog, the spittoon. Pop by and say “hi”! And maybe convince them to join The DNA Network (now numbering 41).



What’s in your DNA? #24

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 20, 2008 in In Your DNA

mitt romneyMitt Romney, US presidential candidate, before the Republican primary in Michigan:

I’ve got Michigan in my DNA. I’ve got it in my heart and I’ve got cars in my bloodstream.

Outlandish Josh:

Workaholism is in my DNA (dad and his famous 90 days straight in the oilfields, mom and her neverending string of projects, etc) but this was not the way I like it; too disorganized and haphazard.

Jenny Cruise at Argh Ink:

I pretty much have snide and demeaning in my DNA and it’s very easy to slide back down that slope. I’m not proud of that. But I don’t wallow. I’m snide and demeaning and then I move on. I think that only moves me from an F to a D on the basic humanity scale but it’s a start.



DNA Video: 23andMe Genetics 101 Part 1

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 19, 2008 in DNA Podcasts and Videos

New personal genomics company, 23andMe, created a series of videos introducing basic genetics concepts. Have a look at part 1 – What are genes?

via ScienceRoll

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Eye on DNA Headlines for 18 January 2008

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 18, 2008 in DNA Testing, DNA and Disease, Eye on DNA Headlines

  • dna bridgeProactive Genomics has launched a $300 prostate cancer genetic test based on research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (January 2008). SNPs at five chromosomal regions were found to be associated with prostate cancer: 17q12 (rs4430796), 17q24.3 (rs1859962), and 8q24 regions 1 (rs16901979), 2 (rs6983267), and 3 (rs1447295). The company looks as if they have plans to expand into the genetics of common diseases as well as personal genomics. More from The New York Times.
  • Genetic Testing is now the official journal of Genetic Alliance. (press release)

    The journal covers all aspects of genetic testing, including molecular, biochemical, and varied sets of clinical situations; ethical, legal, social, and economic aspects of genetic testing; and issues concerning effective genetic counseling.

  • My first stop for information about autism is Autism Vox where today, Kristina Chew looks at geneticist Michael Wigler and his “unified genetic theory of autism.”
  • Look who I found at Big Think! There is a video of George Church, Harvard prof. of genetics answering the question: What is the state of global medicine today? as well as one where he’s musing on The Genomic Revolution. If you feel like responding, you can do so via writing, video, or audio slide show. (via TechCrunch)
  • Sperm produced by mice exposed to air pollution have been found to have more genetic mutations and DNA methylation. Not to worry – just use cloned sperm!
  • Just Science 2008 is now accepting participants.

    By signing up you stipulate that you will post at minimum 1 scientific post per day between February 4th and 8th of 2008. Additionally, you may not post any non-science entries for this period so that we may offer only science on our aggregated feed.

(>> Start a discussion!)


DNA Excerpt: Reading in Our Genes

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 18, 2008 in DNA Quotes and Excerpts

From Twilight of the Books by Caleb Crain in The New Yorker:

Taking the long view, it’s not the neglect of reading that has to be explained but the fact that we read at all. “The act of reading is not natural,” Maryanne Wolf writes in “Proust and the Squid” (Harper; $25.95), an account of the history and biology of reading. Humans started reading far too recently for any of our genes to code for it specifically. We can do it only because the brain’s plasticity enables the repurposing of circuitry that originally evolved for other tasks—distinguishing at a glance a garter snake from a haricot vert, say.

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(>> Start a discussion!)


HairDX – Genetic Test for Male Pattern Baldiness

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 16, 2008 in DNA Testing

Over the years, I’ve had many different hair styles and not a year goes by without me wondering if it would just be easier to shave it off. But I’m being facetious. Readers of Baldiness and its author, Laura Bzowy, certainly care about hair loss and its effect on all aspects of life. And so, apparently, do the folks at HairDX.

HairDX is a $149 genetic test for male pattern baldness also known as androgenic alopecia. It examines unspecified SNPs in genes on the X chromosome that code for the androgen receptor. A previous study in 2005 showed that the genetic variant which codes for excess androgen receptors lies on the X chromosome and is the major determinant of male pattern baldness. HairDX claims that the high risk genetic variants they study account for 95.1% to 98.1 of cases of early onset baldness before the age of 40.

Why take a genetic test for a condition that is not life threatening? HairDX CEO Andy Goren is trying to help you save money:

Each year, men in their twenties and thirties spend millions of dollars on pharmaceuticals, topical products, and other costly treatments trying to prevent baldness. Some of this is done by males who may not go bald in the first place.

So here’s the breakdown:

  • Positive HairDX – Sorry, you lose the genetic lottery.
  • Negative HairDX – Sorry, you could still lose your hair because of other reasons, genetic or otherwise.

Does anybody know if 23andMe or deCODEme test for baldness-related SNPs?* I’m not sure which is a more cost-effective way to go.

In any case, I think this guy’s a lost cause.

ricardo vidal

It’s Rick Vidal from My Biotech Life! Still looking good minus a few strands of hair. :D

*Genetic genealogist Ann Turner has lots more information in her comment.

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DIY Beaded DNA Earrings

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 15, 2008 in DNA Fun

dna earrings

Too cute for words. Beading directions at Craftster.

One more set of instructions for DNA earrings at Genetic Jewelry.

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China Now Exporting Genomic Biotechnology

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 14, 2008 in Business of DNA, DNA Around the World

beijing 2008Early last week, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) announced the complete sequencing of the fourth human genome in the world. Later the same week, whole genome sequencing company, Knome, announced a partnership with BGI where BGI will provide genome sequencing, assembly, and annotation capabilities. Knome will be responsible for analytic tools, security protocols, and genetic interpretation services. According the press release, BGI has over 120 sequencing machines, 10 supercomputers, and 500 terabytes of storage.

Given all the quality control issues surrounding Chinese-made products in Summer 2007, I wouldn’t blame anyone for doubting the quality of genomics in China as well. And although I’d already placed my bets on Singapore being the biotech hub of Asia because of my own positive experience with science in Singapore and scientists from the city state, it appears that I may be mistaken.

Nature Biotechnology reports that China is making great strides in health biotech and with a billion-patient market, who can resist? Shenzhen SiBiono GeneTech Co. developed Gendicine, the world’s first commercialized gene therapy for head and neck cancers. Shanghai United Cell Biotech is making the only tablet cholera vaccing available worldwide. Other Chinese biotech companies are working on vaccines for HIV, Japanese Encephalitis, SARS, and pandemic avian influenza (H5N1). And, of course, BGI has been sequencing genomes.

Development of health-related biotechnology in China is not without its obstacles. Some of the issues raised include:

  • China’s uncertain financial system
  • Rigid restrictions on exports
  • Quality control
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Lack of trust between China-based and international partners
  • Barriers created by language, travel, culture, and project management styles.

For biotechnology companies looking to expand their business in China, Stephen M. Sammut of Burril & Company has this advice:

…the country’s industry might be better served if Chinese residents in the West built transnational companies with a footprint in both China and the West.

While this practice is already common, regulations and taxation policies to encourage this approach would address many of the concerns of private and public capital, assure prospective alliance partners, and add depth to the pool of experienced managers. Such an approach would also promote China as a co-development partner rather than a purely low-cost venue to international companies to contract services.

So it appears that Knome is on the cutting edge of both genomics and international business. Because labor costs in China are much lower than in the US, partnering with BGI will surely improve the bottom line as well. Another smart move for a company that’s charging $350,000 and more for whole genome sequencing.

via Innovations Report

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How the UK uses DNA from the National Database

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 13, 2008 in DNA Around the World, DNA Fun

IMG 6535
Seen on Queensway, London

Crime Prevention Advice

Your Safer
Neighbourhood Team

Protecting your street
DNA property marking

So that’s what they do with DNA in the UK National DNA Database They use it to mark property! ;)

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DNA Video: Genomics in Public Health with Kristin Oehlke

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 12, 2008 in DNA Podcasts and Videos

In this video, Minnesota State Genomics Coordinator Kristin Oehlke discusses the importance of genomics in public health. She also blogs at The Minnesota Gene Pool.

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