DNA in General

DNA Network Tweet Cloud

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 29, 2009 in DNA Fun, DNA in General

FYI. I tweet about genetics and related science topics under The DNA Network Twitter account @DNAnetwork. Are you on Twitter?


by Tweet Cloud

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American Genes Don’t Exist

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 4, 2009 in DNA Around the World, DNA in General

image Congratulations to Meb Keflezighi of Eritrean descent, who won the New York City Marathon last Sunday and was the first American to do so since 1982!

Why did I mention that he was born in Eritrea? Because critics say that an immigrant like Keflezighi who moved to the U.S. at age 12 isn’t a legitimate American.

A post on Letsrun.com said:

Give us all a break. It’s just another African marathon winner.

How about making that African-American?

Silly me. I thought that naturalized American citizens equal American citizens at birth with the same rights and privileges (with the exception of getting to be the President of the United States). Leaving that debate aside, however, the belief that East Africans are genetically endowed for marathon running has also clouded Keflezighi’s celebration.

The success of distance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia has fostered a lore of East Africans as genetically gifted, unbeatable, dominant because of their biology. Scientists have looked for — but not found — genes specific to East Africans that could account for their distance ability, said John Hoberman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies race and sports.

Truly American? Debate Dogs a Triumph in the Marathon – NYTimes.com

No doubt Keflezighi has genes which enhance his physiological capabilities for endurance and other traits found in winning marathoners. This does not mean that Keflezighi is any more or less American than other non-East African runners who have the same genes.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “nationality” in two parts:


noun (pl. nationalities) 1 the status of belonging to a particular nation. 2 an ethnic group forming a part of one or more political nations.

Even though ethnic groups are mentioned, the U.S. is clearly a country of many ethnic groups so genes should not be part of the debate when discussing whether someone is American or not.

Quite frankly, I’m not even sure what makes a person American and I don’t think anyone else does either. I hold an American passport and spent the years between ages 6 and 26 in the U.S. I’ve lived in six different countries in the past 10 years and as a result, my national identity is slightly muddled. My son is even more confused. He holds an American passport as well but has never lived in the U.S although he’s lived in four different countries in his seven years. He was born in Japan so some days he says that he’s Japanese and now that he lives in Singapore, he sometimes says he’s Singaporean. I’m sure some people would say he’s not American at all.

It might be simpler to say we’re global citizens with ties to more than one country. Truth be told, I’m proud to say I’m Chinese-American with the accent to prove it.

Edited to add this video of Meb Keflezighi on David Letterman:



Genomics Law Report Special Series on Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 20, 2009 in DNA and the Law, DNA in General, The DNA Network Specials

What ELSI is new (article)DNA Network members who have or are contributing articles to the amazing series on ELSI over at Genomics Law Report:

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HUGO Matters

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 13, 2009 in DNA in General

My latest project has launched! HUGO Matters, the official blog of the Human Genome Organisation, is now live. Come check it out:


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Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) Symposium on Genomics and Ethics, Law and Society

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 5, 2009 in DNA in General

hugo gels

In just a few short weeks, HUGO will be holding a symposium in Geneva, Switzerland on genomics and ethics, law and society (GELS). From 1 to 3 November 2009, experts from around the world will be gathering to discuss the following topics:

  • Science & Its Capabilities
  • Personal Genomics: Redefining Privacy, Choice and the Internet
  • Genetic Determinism, Discrimination, Exceptionalism and Selection
  • Equity and Justice: Access & Participation in the Developing World
  • Open Access, Open Markets: Intellectual Property?

It’s not too late to sign up! Student discounted registration fees, registration waivers for young scholars and young scientists are also available. Please see the GELS registration form.

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People Who’ve Had Their Genomes Sequenced

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 21, 2009 in DNA in General

Trying to compile a list of people who’ve had their genome sequenced and announced it publicly:

  1. Craig Venter
  2. James Watson
  3. Stephen Quake
  4. George Church
  5. Marjolein Kriek
  6. Hermann Hauser
  7. Han Chinese
  8. Seong-Jin Kim
  9. Korean AK1
  10. Yoruban African NA18507
  11. 14 others sequenced by Complete Genomics
  12. Unknown number sequenced by Knome
  13. 6 genomes sequenced at high depth by the 1000 Genomes Project
  14. 180 genomes sequenced at low coverage by the 1000 Genomes Project
  15. Two acute myeloid leukemia patients

Know any I’ve missed?

Please see the comments for more links.

Sources: Technology Review, Nature 2009 Aug 20; 460(7258):1011-5

Last edited 22 September 2009



Personal Update – Social Media at Human Genome Organisation

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 6, 2009 in Business of DNA, DNA in General

The pace around here at Eye on DNA is still nothing like it was before I went on maternity leave last June. But I have another great reason for continuing to neglect this space.

Current Company LogoSince the start of my first personal blog in 2003, I have been an enthusiastic believer in the power of social media. When I began science blogging in 2005, I truly understood the importance of citizen media for informing, sharing, and inspiring.

This month I made another move into social media and began working at Soho Square as social media editor. At the same time, I became social media consultant to the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) which many of you know as the folks in charge of gene nomenclature.

But HUGO is more than just nomenclature, the Organization’s mission statement:

  • to investigate the nature, structure, function and interaction of the genes, genomic elements and genomes of humans and relevant pathogenic and model organisms;
  • to characterise the nature, distribution and evolution of genetic variation in humans and other relevant organisms;
  • to study the relationship between genetic variation and the environment in the origins and characteristics of human populations and the causes, diagnoses, treatments and prevention of disease;
  • to foster the interaction, coordination, and dissemination of information and technology between investigators and the global society in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, systems biology, and the clinical sciences by promoting quality education, comprehensive communication, and accurate, comprehensive, and accessible knowledge resources for genes, genomes and disease; and,
  • to sponsor factually-grounded dialogues on the social, legal, and ethical issues related to genetic and genomic information and championing the regionally-appropriate, ethical utilization of this information for the good of the individual and the society.

To help accomplish the above, I will be assisting HUGO in setting up a blog as well as fostering an online (leading to a more active offline) community. I will have more news in the days to come. Meanwhile, please join us at the following:

Thanks for your support!



The DNA Network Reincarnated (Again)

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 29, 2009 in The DNA Network Specials

The DNA Network, a not-for-profit consortium of some of the best genetics blogs on the Web, has a new homepage at DNAbloggers.com designed by Ricardo Vidal. The Network is now over two years old and boasts over 50 active blogs. If you’d like to join, please email me at hsien AT eyeondna DOT com.

The Network is now available via Google Reader as a “bundle” where you can also access the aggregated RSS feed.

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Attend Genetics Meetings for Free

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 1, 2009 in DNA in General

Genetic Alliance is now accepting applications on a rolling basis for their Advocates Partnership Program. Successful applicants will have meeting registration fees waived plus be reimbursed for $250 in meeting-related fees, including transportation, hotel room, or airfare. Genetic Alliance will also arrange exclusive daily briefings.

The two meetings applicants can attend are:

American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting
October 20-24, Honolulu, Hawaii

National Society of Genetic Counselors Annual Education Conference
November 13-15, Atlanta, Georgia

Applicants are selected based on their responses to the following questions (for the ASHG meeting):

  1. What do you hope to gain from participating in the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting? The Partnership Program?
  2. What are the main topics in the 2009 ASHG meeting program that interest you, and how will they benefit the work you are engaged in?
  3. What challenges do your organization and its members face with regard to research?
  4. What are the opportunities for your organization and its members in emerging research?
  5. Please describe the ways that genetics professionals are currently involved in your organization, or how you would like to involve them in the future.

Sounds like a fantastic opportunity especially for those who are based in the city where the meetings are going to be held this year. For more information and application forms, go to http://www.geneticalliance.org/advocates.opportunities.

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Genetics Refresher

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted July 30, 2009 in DNA in General

Lab on a ChipAfter being semi-out of it for the past year, I think I could use a refresher on genetics. Luckily, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has it covered with fact sheets about the Institute, genetics and biology, and ethical, legal, and social implications research.

I think I’ll start with:

HT: National DNA Day Facebook page

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