End of an era: The C. elegans genetic map is now frozen.

Nearly 50 years after Sydney Brenner’s letter to Max Perutz set the wheels in motion for the use of Caenorhabditis elegans as a potent genetic model system, leading eventually to six Nobel prizes and a global research community numbering in the thousands, a new threshold has been crossed.

Starting with the latest release of the C. elegans genome (WS232 in worm-speak), the genetic map is now FROZEN. Recombinational distances have changed very little over the last three years, a testament both to the fine granularity of the genetic map as well as — perhaps — to shifting tides in experimental approaches.

New mutations, deficiencies and rearrangements will still be placed on the map but simply assigned an interpolated genetic position.

Targeted gene deletions in C. elegans using transposon excision

“Targeted gene deletions in C. elegans using transposon excision” is now available in advance online publication form at Nature Methods.

Even after 40 years of intense genetics in the model system C. elegans, a large majority of genes have not yet been disabled by deletion. Although targeted deletions have been possible in flies and mice for years, the technology has been elusive in worms.

Finding your long lost relatives through 23andMe

The direct-to-consumer personal genomics company 23andme is open beta testing a new service called Relative Finder. Based on the number and extent of shared segments, Relative Finder aims to detect long lost relatives.

The interface is clean and simple. Users are presented with two view options, a sortable “List View” and a graphical “Discovery View”.

The List View shows a Predicted Relationship (ie 2nd cousin), a Relationship Range, select Personal Details of the possible match (ie country of origin, maternal and paternal haplogroups, geographical ancestry), %DNA shared, and number of segments shared. The list can be filtered to include only users who have chose to share their genome or to show new connections in the last seven or thirty days. This last feature is certain to be handy as the service moves out of beta testing.

The Discovery View distills this information into a graphical representation showing the number of possible matches a different geneological distances: cousins, 2nd cousins, and so on.

Contacting matches is a snap. Messaging is first handled through 23andme’s site and feels a bit like on-line dating. Once connected, you can choose to share your data should you see fit.
Currently, only users who have opted in to the system can be contacted (in the Detailed View above these are users with cartoon bubbles over their heads).

To date, Relative Finder has connected me to 128 possible relatives, most distant. Last night I got a 2nd and 3rd cousin possible match. Unfortunately, neither of these individuals are participating in the program so their identity remains unknown.