Taggenetics

Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests May Wildly Overestimate Your Risk of Disease

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests give inaccurate predictions of disease risks and many European geneticists believe that some of them should be banned, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard May 31.

Although the predictive ability of the DTC tests in the study was moderate for all diseases, both companies assigned an increased risk to a substantial part of the group. Yet the risk of disease in this group was often not substantially higher than the risk in the rest of the population studied. For AMD, the disease with the highest predictive ability, both companies assumed that the risk in the population was around 8%. Of all subjects designated as having an increased risk, 16% using the 23andMe risk estimations and 19% using deCODEme’s estimations would develop AMD, compared to the 4% found in the rest of the population studied. […]

“deCODEme predicted risks higher than 100% for five out of the eight diseases,” Ms Kalf will say. “This in itself should be enough to raise considerable concern about the accuracy of these predictions — a risk can never be higher than 100%. In the case of AMD one in every 200 individuals in the group would have received a predicted risk of higher than 100%, suggesting that they would definitely develop the disease.”

Science Daily: Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests Neither Accurate in Their Predictions nor Beneficial to Individuals, Study Suggests

(via Edward Borasky)

Oh well, at least we’ll always have palm reading.

Can You Imagine a Future Where London Police Bees Conduct Genetic Surveillance?

genetic surveillance warning

Designer Thomas Thwaites (who built this DIY toaster with iron ore gathered by hand) has created a project called “Policing Genes,” envisioning a future in which bees are used for genetic surveillance:

Other than a few obvious illegal narcotic plants, it hadn’t occurred to me that the genetics of what is growing in a person’s garden could become a police matter. Even more intriguing/trippy was the possibility of the police using bees for surveillance and for forensically identifying the pollen that the bees came back with. If that pollen is genetically outside of the law, the police could use the bees to track a person right to the house he or she lives in. […]

Thomas Thwaites, however, has put a great deal of thought into genetic engineering and the policing of those genes. Thwaites pointed out that the ability to insert genes into plants is now DIY technology available to both the amateur and the criminal. “Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.”

Computerworld: Police bees for surveillance, tracking and buzzzsting biohackers?

Policing Genes

See also:

We Make Money Not Art’s interview with Thwaites

Biopunk: the biotechnology black market

A Healthy Lifestyle May Not Affect Your Longevity

Centenarians
Photo by edwardyanquen / CC

SCIENTISTS have discovered the “Methuselah” genes whose lucky carriers have a much improved chance of living to 100 even if they indulge in an unhealthy lifestyle.

The genes appear to protect people against the effects of smoking and bad diet and can also delay the onset of age-related illnesses such as cancer and heart disease by up to three decades.

No single gene is a guaranteed fountain of youth. Instead, the secret of longevity probably lies in having the right “suite” of genes, according to new studies of centenarians and their families. Such combinations are extremely rare — only one person in 10,000 reaches the age of 100.

Found: genes that let you live to 100

(via Dangerous Meme)

Also, an active social life beyond one’s own family contributes to one’s longevity, happiness, and intelligence in later life.

Improved method for comparing genomes as well as written text

“Taking a hint from the text comparison methods used to detect plagiarism in books, college papers and computer programs, University of California, Berkeley, researchers have developed an improved method for comparing whole genome sequences. With nearly a thousand genomes partly or fully sequenced, scientists are jumping on comparative genomics as a way to construct evolutionary trees, trace disease susceptibility in populations, and even track down people’s ancestry.

To date, the most common techniques have relied on comparing a limited number of highly conserved genes – no more than a couple dozen – in organisms that have all these genes in common. The new method can be used to compare even distantly related organisms or organisms with genomes of vastly different sizes and diversity, and can compare the entire genome, not just a selected small fraction of the gene-containing portion known to code for proteins, which in the human genome is only 1 percent of the DNA.

The technique produces groupings of organisms largely consistent with current groupings, but with some interesting discrepancies, according to Sung-Hou Kim, professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley and faculty researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. However, the relative positions of the groups in the family tree – that is, how recently these groups evolved – are quite different from those based on conventional gene alignment methods.The computational results have surprised scientists in being able to classify some bacteria and viruses that until now were enigmatic. The technique, which employs feature frequency profiles (FFP), is described in a paper to appear this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

(via UC Berkley News. Thanks Josh!)

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