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Biotech Science To Add DNA Test Results 223

Spamicles writes "For less than $200 and a cheek-swiped cotton swab, you will soon be able to add DNA results to family tree Web sites. plans to launch the DNA testing product by the end of summer, offering customers the possibility of finding DNA matches in the site's 24,000 genealogical databases. By taking a simple cheek-swab test and comparing results against DNA profiles in a test-results database, virtually anyone can uncover genealogical associations unimaginable just a few years ago. Users can easily connect with and discover lost or unknown relatives within a few generations, as well as gain insight into where their families originated thousands of years ago."
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  • Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:18AM (#19563409)
    I hope people realise that when they post DNA it's not just their own but also contains information about parents, children, siblings and cousins. Basically your family.

    Insurance company - "We've found that your family has a higher risk of kidney disease. In the interest of sharing the risk we won't offer insurance for dialysis or kidney transplant".

    I just hope they make the effort to educate people about the pro's and con's of making your dna public.
  • Worst idea ever (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:21AM (#19563447)
    For less than $200 and a cheek-swiped cotton swab, you will soon be able to add DNA results to family tree Web sites.

    Excellent, now the last thing left is for someone to invent a practical cloning machine.
    For less than $200 of course.

    Anyone got a bittorent to Pamela Anderson's DNA?

  • by boyfaceddog ( 788041 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:23AM (#19563461) Journal
    Genetic traits can be a better pointer to which region a family came from than simple DNA. After all, DNA takes all that combination stuff (I think it's called sex) and has many latent traits that may or may not show up depending on genetics of both parents.

    For example part of my family is Swiss, about six generations back. Part of my wife's family is also Swiss, about four generations back. Her family happens to be from the part of Switzerland that has a wierd abnormality in a small percentage of their population. Sometimes their adult teeth don't develop. Because of this trait and research my wife was able to trace her family to an exact village.

    Oh, and no ones privacy was ever in danger.

    DNA on the other hand is still latereal in time and not verticle. Unless you want to test a corpse you can't go back many generations. A good tool to see what uncle Joe REALLY did on those "sales" trips in Vegas, but not much good as a family history research tool.
  • by AmIAnAi ( 975049 ) * on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:33AM (#19563541)
    Is a website the best place to discover that your DNA doesn't match any of your close relatives, as you were expecting it to - that your parents are not your natural parents and you were adopted?

    Unfortunately, there are many cases of people not being told that they were adopted and a web site like this is not the ideal way to discover this. You really need an organization that has some form of immediate support for people who receive unexpected surprises.
  • Re:Privacy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) * <> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:35AM (#19563573) Homepage Journal
    My mother does genealogy. She has parts of our family back to the 1400's. I've discussed many options with her on bigger, better, faster (and more computer-centric) ways to gather the information. There are a lot of obstacles.

        The saddest is what you ran into. If I remember what she told me correctly, it's either legally required, or just good form, to only publish those who are deceased or records older than 80 years. I'm probably off on that number though. Why I consider it sad is that I wouldn't know cousin Vinnie. He (the mythical Vinnie) could be a blood relation from a fork of our tree in 1500 Europe.

        She wants, or needs, to show real documentation of the person and how they relate. She considers the accuracy of her work very important. Just because she finds (buys, borrows, whatever) someone else's tree doesn't mean that any of the information in it is accurate. Say our trees did cross. How is she to know without all the supporting documentation that the details are correct. Maybe that birth of Isaac on December 4 of 1606 was really April 12th of 1606. If she follows your tree without verification, she'll be following incorrect data to dead ends.

        I do like the idea of being able to find real-world relations. For my family, we're friendly enough so I don't suspect there would be problems. I know some families aren't quite so nice. Just because cousin Vinnie is a billionaire, every distant cousin would be bugging him for some of his cash.

        I'll probably be putting myself into the system. I'm curious to see who's out there. Maybe I have a distant cousin who's also a reader here, and we have a lot in common. :) Maybe it just doesn't matter if you're a cousin or not. :)
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:42AM (#19563641) Homepage Journal
    If the government has its way, we will *all* be criminals at some point. Even if they have to look at retroactive actions.

    Also, don't forget that future employers/insurance carriers might be looking too. "hmmmm we see here you are predisposed to being/having/doing xyz, we don't feel you are good candidate"
  • by Rauser ( 631244 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:53AM (#19563729)

    Since its fat gravy train is going to end soon... How? With the massive FREE release of the entire scanned archive from the Mormon Vault [] in Salt Lake City (to be available on []). Once this project has gone live much of the information that currently charges for will be essentially public domain.

    There already is a schism forming between and, seen from the collapse of arrangements between the Mormon church and Ancestry to provide the service free in the LDS Family History centers around the world.

  • Re:Privacy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rauser ( 631244 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:57AM (#19563773)
    Unfortunately, the IGI (International Genealogical Index) that is hosted at is one of the absolutely least accurate resources available, full of errors and information about living people. The IGI is treated very sceptically by genealogists, even though it occasionally contains the odd nugget of valuable info.
  • by JoeD ( 12073 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @08:59AM (#19563807) Homepage
    If I had the spare cash, I'd take a swab from a slab of lunch meat and send that in. Or my cat.
  • Re:Privacy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ParticleGirl ( 197721 ) <> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:03AM (#19563849) Journal
    Although all this stuff is a matter of public record, most of it isn't readily accessible. The internet changes the whole meaning of public. We're talking about institutions which have existed for decades if not centuries, and for them the internet is still new.
    I worked at a data archive under the Department of Justice and the FBI in the late 90s/early 00s, and they were just making a switch to dowloads from distributing CDs full of data for the cost of the CD plus shipping. You see, the data was supposed to be a matter of public record. But if they wanted a copy, once upon a time it meant many, many days with a mimeograph. Or a punchcard machine. Or waiting for (and paying for) a CD to arrive in the mail. (All of these changes over the course of 20 years, after many decades of needing to visit!)
        People finally had the bandwith to download. The biggest issue people at the archive struggled with? If it's too easy to use, any schmuck who wants to can get a copy. In the past you had to go to great, or at least greater, lengths to get the information. There was more resistance than you can imagine to making the website user friendly as opposed to intentional obfuscation(!) simply because "a matter of public record" has a very, very different meaning now than it did twenty years ago.

    If the FBI wants your mother's maiden name (or diary) and have filled out all the appropriate paperwork, they can find out whether they have to go to the local archive (or your bedroom) or not. But if Joe Schmoe wants your mother's maiden name (or your diary), there's a difference between him making a special trip to an archive (or visiting your bedroom) and him typing your name into Google.

    Which is not to say I don't think that "matter of public record" information shouldn't be on the internet. It should be. Information wants to be free and all that... but lots of very stupid people are going to suffer because they didn't realize that their blog wasn't private, and lots and lots of smart people are going to suffer because some credit companies only allow people to use things that are a matter of public record as passwords. It's going to take a while for people-- and especially for institutions-- to get used to the idea that public has a whole new meaning; that accessible is the new last word in privacy.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:42AM (#19564227) Homepage Journal
    Here's the worry, I think: law enforcement agencies could take a crime scene sample, run it against the entire database, and decide that whoever comes up with the closest match must have done it. And in the current climate, they might well make it stick, even if the crime involves ... [gasp] pedophilia ... or [shock] terrorism ... or [falls over dead from the horror of it] record piracy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:55AM (#19564357)
    We had cases come up in our clinic where DNA results didn't match the clinical situation. I tried to find some data on how common this was. I couldn't find any decent data in humans. For birds there is some information. That is where the 5-10% comes from. From the results in our clinic I would say that about 1% of fathers are raising a kid they don't know isn't their's. Even in those cases it wasn't a big shocker to the clinic staff. It didn't take much prompting for the mother to say something like "I guess it could be my ex-boyfriend's".
  • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @09:56AM (#19564377) Journal
    Just gunna go out on a limb here, but I suspect that you are more likely to find the DNA match of a victim than a criminal. I may just be making broad generalizations here but I would suspect that most of the people who would submit their DNA to are not the same type of people who go leaving their DNA at crime scenes, let alone are every around any crime scenes as anything other than a victim.
  • by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @10:29AM (#19564749)
    It's not a myth. It becomes apparent when people get their blood typed against their parents... for transplant and transfusion reasons. When the mother is AO-, the father is AB-, and the kid is O+, it's pretty easy to see what happened.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @12:26PM (#19566289) Homepage Journal
    Depending on the number of markers on a person's DNA test, this will range from the fairly useless to the totally useless. These things can't even be used for paternity tests. Let's say someone has 37 Y-chromosome markers tested - a fairly common thing to do. You will match if you have a last common ancestor in the last 6 generations. Very useful for genealogy, but bugger all use for criminology, unless they want to press charges against your great great grandfather.

    The most extreme test available (67 Y-chromosome markers + deep subclade + Kittler DYS385, 25 autosomnal DNA markers, 16 X-chromosome markers and complete mapping of the mitochondrial DNA + identification of sub-sub-branch), assuming the DNA was from a male, would be good enough to identify a person and all their male siblings. It's no better than that. And, frankly, these tests aren't cheap and unless you were adopted from a fairly high-tech country, no sane person would ever get this level of testing. They'd have the family tree back some number of generations and would not bother testing more accurately than needed to examine the next few generations out.

    The other thing to consider is that these are not supervised tests. Anyone can send in DNA from anyone else under any name at all, and the lab would have no way of knowing. It makes no difference to the person getting the test done, because all lookups from there-on-out are all done by reference number or by the name of the most ancient ancestor known, not by the living person's name.

    From a law-enforcement perspective, it might eliminate some possibilities, but I can't see it being useful in positive identification.

    Now, there IS one area of concern for me. Some DNA labs do retain additional DNA samples for retesting or upgrades from previous tests. This is raw DNA material and could potentially be accessed by the wrong person. Usually, there is some protection (the vials are only marked with a serial number, not a name), but law enforcement could potentially gain access to the database that links name to number. That could be a problem.

    Beyond that, though, this really does only have use for genealogists, historians and anthropologists. The data is just too vague for anyone else.

"I'll rob that rich person and give it to some poor deserving slob. That will *prove* I'm Robin Hood." -- Daffy Duck, Looney Tunes, _Robin Hood Daffy_