Tag Archives: DNA testing

Five million Brits to be offered free personalized DNA reports

First of all, anything coming from the government is NOT free.

Secondly, why in the world would you voluntarily turn over your DNA to the government?

From the Telegraph: Five million Britons will be offered free gene tests on the NHS, helping to predict their risk of major diseases. Under the plans, individuals will be able to volunteer to receive personalised reports, setting out analysis based on their DNA.

Ministers said the anonymised data will be used to develop a new generation of personalised treatments.

Experts said this would allow individuals to make lifestyle changes, or ensuring they are targeted with the right medications.

But plans to give healthy people the option of paying to have their DNA analysed by the NHS are understood to have been scrapped.

Health officials said a £79m Government investment, backed by £160 million from charities and businesses, would be used to support research on early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease including dementia and cancer.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “Prioritising life-saving research and innovation means we can unlock solutions to deadly conditions like cancer, dementia and heart disease – saving lives and securing the health of the next generation.

“To achieve this we must harness the power of technology, so I am delighted with today’s investment from businesses and charities – a huge boost for healthcare innovation which will help patients lead longer, happier lives.”

Earlier this year the Health Secretary revealed that he is at heightened risk of developing prostate cancer as he urges the NHS to roll out gene testing more widely. Matt Hancock said tests found he has a 15 per cent chance of suffering prostate cancer by the age of 75 – a risk about 1.5 times greater than the average man.

The Health Secretary, 40, said the news had left him worried, saying he would be seeking a blood test from his GP, and ensuring he did not miss any screening appointments.

But critics accused him of “astonishing ignorance” saying his score would not be considered high risk, and could come down to a “margin of error.”

The NHS normally only provides PSA blood tests – which can show an increased risk of prostate cancer – from the age of 50, if requested. There is no NHS screening programme for prostate cancer.

DCG

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Shocker, not: Major DNA testing company sharing their data with the FBI

You really want to trust big government with your DNA?

Stay far, far, FAR, FAR away from these DNA testing companies. While you believe it may be a good mechanism to help solve crimes, DNA test results can also be used against you.

From MSN: The decision by a prominent consumer DNA-testing company to share data with federal law enforcement means investigators have access to genetic information linked to hundreds of millions of people.

FamilyTreeDNA, an early pioneer of the rapidly growing market for consumer genetic testing, confirmed late Thursday that it has granted the Federal Bureau of Investigation access to its vast trove of nearly 2 million genetic profiles. The arrangement was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Concerns about unfettered access to genetic information gathered by testing companies have swelled since April, when police used a genealogy website to ensnare a suspect in the decades-old case of the Golden State Killer. But that site, GEDmatch, was open-source, meaning police were able to upload crime-scene DNA data to the site without permission. The latest arrangement marks the first time a commercial testing company has voluntarily given law enforcement access to user data.

The move is of concern to more than just privacy-minded FamilyTreeDNA customers. One person sharing genetic information also exposes those to whom they are closely related. That’s how police caught the alleged Golden State Killer. A study last year estimated that only 2 percent of the population needs to have done a DNA test for virtually everyone’s genetic information to be represented in that data.

FamilyTreeDNA’s cooperation with the FBI more than doubles the amount of genetic data law enforcement already had access to through GEDmatch. On a case-by-case basis, the company has agreed to test DNA samples for the FBI and upload profiles to its database, allowing law enforcement to see familial matches to crime-scene samples.

FamilyTreeDNA said law enforcement may not freely browse genetic data but rather has access only to the same information any user might.

“The FBI does not have unfettered access to the FamilyTreeDNA database,” Bennett Greenspan, the company founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The genealogy community expressed dismay. Last summer, FamilyTreeDNA was among a list of consumer genetic testing companies that agreed to a suite of voluntary privacy guidelines, but as of Friday morning, it had been crossed off the list.

“The deal between FamilyTreeDNA and the FBI is deeply flawed,” said John Verdi, vice president of policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, which maintains the list. “It’s out of line with industry best practices, it’s out of line with what leaders in the space do and it’s out of line with consumer expectations.”

Some in the field have begun arguing that a universal, government-controlled database may be better for privacy than allowing law enforcement to gain access to consumer information.

FamilyTreeDNA said its lab has received “less than 10 samples” from the FBI. It also said it has worked with state and city police agencies in addition to the FBI to resolve cold cases.

“The genealogy community, their privacy and confidentiality has always been our top priority,” the company said in an email response to questions.

Consumer DNA testing has become big business. Ancestry.com and 23andMe Inc. alone have sold more than 15 million DNA kits. Concerns about an industry commitment to privacy could hamper the industry’s rapid growth.

Since the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, more than a dozen other suspects have been apprehended using GEDmatch. By doubling the amount of data law enforcement have access to, those numbers are sure to surge.

“The real risk is not exposure of info but that an innocent person could be swept up in a criminal investigation because his or her cousin has taken a DNA test,’’ said Debbie Kennett, a British genealogist and author. “On the other hand, the more people in the databases and the closer the matches, the less chance there is that people will make mistakes.’’

DCG

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DNA ancestry companies fake African ancestry for white people

You’ve all seen those commercials on TV from DNA-testing businesses like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and Living DNA.

The commercials portray DNA testing as such a science that they can break down your genetic ancestry into precise percentages, e.g., Native American (26%), Spanish or Iberian (23%), Italian/Greek (15%), African (5%), as in this commercial.

But in reality, what those DNA-testing companies sell is more con than science.

That’s what Inside Edition discovered when they had a set of triplets send their saliva to Ancestry.com and 23andMe for DNA testing. Although the triplets all came from the same womb, they got wildly different results from both companies. The DNA test results had the triplets differing from each other by more than 10%, which is a greater difference than the 7% genetic difference between humans and monkeys, the 3.1% difference in DNA between humans and orangutans, and the 1.2% difference between humans and chimps. (See “Animals That Share Human DNA Sequences“)

Indeed, genetics experts say the DNA-testing companies prey on gullible people by pinpointing your biological origins on a map with spurious specificity:

  • Anthropologist Deborah Bolnick of the University of Texas at Austin calls “fraudulent” companies that claim DNA testing will tell you where you came from.
  • Anthropologist Jonathan Marks of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, says that instead of tracing our genetic past, what we get is a scientific scam: “It sure looks like science. Well, it is science. It’s done by scientists, and it’s done on DNA samples. And it produces real data.” But these companies simply don’t have enough comparative information to pinpoint a gene on a world map.

To find out more about the sophistry sold by DNA-testing companies, Cracked spoke to Morgan, an employee of “one of the major ancestry testing companies”.

Morgan not only confirms what the anthropologists say — that the DNA tests are not as accurate and precise as they are claimed to be — he also reveals other problems, such as test results being “tweaked” to conform with the customer’s expectations because “It pays to suck up to the people who pay you,” and test samples being contaminated because the customers sent their saliva mixed with other substances, such as food or saliva from another person.

Most egregiously, Morgan also confides that his DNA testing company has faked African ancestry for customers deemed to be racists:

“I only know of two times somebody wanted to be tested for being another ethnicity because they didn’t like that ethnicity. Both times, [they were] white people not wanting to believe they had black ancestors. […]

[W]hat we did was add ‘< 1 percent’ to each African category of ethnicity. That way we weren’t lying, and they [the “racist’ customers] would both be wondering how much under a percentage point was. We always try to round to the nearest number because we sometimes hear about percentage points, but for them, we leave it open to whether it’s a one or a zero. […]

[One customer] wrote to us asking what that meant, and we wrote back that it meant it was under 1 percent. And we were not saying zero. Unless they got another test, that was going to bother them. Maybe they weren’t 100 percent Caucasian […] this way it leaves it open, and they’ll always be wondering.

See also “Twins get some ‘mystifying’ results when they put 5 DNA ancestry kits to the test“.

~Eowyn

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