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.

23andme’s new Migraine Survey

23andme has unleashed a new survey that aims to assess the genetic basis of migraine.

What’s more, 23andme hope to raise public consciousness — and hopefully research funding — of migraine. On The Spittoon, MikeM writes:

Two prominent migraine researchers have suggested that the blame for the slow progress in understanding migraine lies with a systemic lack of public funding for migraine research. They argue that the relatively recent, and incomplete, acceptance of migraine by the medical and research communities as a genuine medical problem, as opposed to mere melodrama, has led migraine’s funding to lag well behind that for diseases of similar impact. For example, they estimate that while $13.80 is spent for each sufferer of asthma, just 36 cents of federal research funds are spent per migraine sufferer.

The genetics of migraine are also only partially understood. That’s where our new survey comes in. Our community-based research program 23andWe seeks to empower the public to engage in genetic research from the ground up. We know our efforts cannot substitute for proper federal support of migraine research, but evidence of great public interest, plus a new finding or two, would add to our understanding of the disease and potentially send a message to Washington.

I have experienced the “migraine as melodrama bias” myself. See, I’ve suffered from migraines since I was in sixth grade. I still remember describing the visual symptoms and ensuing headache phenomena at a time when migraine was even less poorly understood than it is today. My list of symptoms is now easily recognized migraine: aura, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, duration.

And although there are phenomenal treatments now available, I don’t take a thing. I’ve come to see migraines as a way of flushing out the pipes, a neurological reset that helps me think clearer and with greater creativity.

You don’t need to be a 23andme subscriber to take the survey.

I am my own model organism: getting genotyped (Part I)

I’ve given in.

I’ve decided to take a closer look at my own genome through 23AndMe’s genotyping service.

Just some cursory observations so far. The experience from a consumer standpoint is stellar. In fact, it’s a bit like the Apple Experience: a great website, fast service, interesting packaging, and the anticipation of what’s inside.

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience first hand the transformation of DNA sequencing and array technology. Dating back to my time as a grad student sequencing alleles on long-running double-loaded polyacrylamide gels, reading the sequence on actual film (RainX is your friend), to the rise of institutional sequencing facilities, to full-scale genome sequencing and annotation projects.

And after almost 20 years working with molecular biology, genetics, and genomics data, I think I’m most amazed that the technology for personal discovery is starting to arrive. And what’s more, that it’s arriving in a little box sent through the mail.

After all these years of staring at the sequence of other species, it’s going to be interesting to take a peek at my own.