Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Neanderthal in me

I inherited 2.5% of my DNA from our ancient Neanderthal cousins. It’s an average value, I’m told in my results. Some people have more, others, have less Neanderthal in them. I also hope to know soon what percentage of my genome is Denisovan (the third species of modern humans, whose fossils were discovered in a cave in Siberia, and officially recognized a year ago). Like the Neanderthals, they’ve been extinct for some 30 thousand years, they coexisted with Homo sapiens (ourselves) and Neanderthals, and like the Neanderthals, they interbred with us.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Asian ancestry is gone

In one of my earliest posts, I mentioned 23andme’s Ancestry Painting, which allows us to see the origin of our chromosomes in terms of large geographical regions. At the time, I had some small fragments (less than 1 percent) of Asian origin. But recently 23andme announce it had made improvements to this functionality – and when I went there a few moments ago to see if anything had changed for me, I discovered that my Asian genes were no longer there...

Friday, May 6, 2011

On air: my genes and me on French radio

Listen to the podcast of the debate that took place today on France Culture's "Science Publique" program (in French).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Me and my genes on French radio!

Tomorrow I'm participating in a debate, on the French radio station France Culture, on the topic “Do genetic tests predict our future?”. The program’s name is Science Publique and it starts at 2 p.m. (Paris local time).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tomorrow in Sciences et Avenir: my journey to my genes, revisited

My dear friend Dominique Leglu presents, in this video clip, the contents of the May issue of the magazine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Luckily, I won't have to decide right away!

23andme anounced yesterday that is it now possible for their clients of European descent to know their Alzheimer's risk. This "diagnosis" includes the detection of a mutation, APOE ε4, known to substantially increase the risk of developping the disease.

Just as was the case with the hereditary breast cancer gene mutations when I received my first results, to see my results I would now have to click again on an opt-in button, signalling my informed consent.

I've long asked myself what I would do when the time came. Would I feel an irresistible urge to know? Being just a click away from the "truth" might turn out to be unbearable... And do I really want to know?

Now the time has come... but not exactly in my case, at least not immediately, because for that to happen I would have to get tested again, with a new kit. My current results are incomplete. I'm so relieved!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cancer world

I learned today that my odds of having a squamous cell carcinoma - the second most common skin cancer, that usually develops on sun-exposed areas, namely on the face and hands - could be substantially higher than average. A study involving 537 persons afflicted by the disease and 1504 healthy controls, all of European descent, was published in Cancer Research , suggesting that a certain point mutation in a gene called IRF4 is associated with this cancer. And since I inherited the risky mutation from both my parents, my risk could be three times higher (2.89 to be exact). I know what I'm going to talk about with my dermatologist next time I see him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Already 1,391

According to Relative Finder (RF) I have today 1,391 "genetic cousins" (Ashkenazi Jews like me have record numbers of cousins, probably owing to their over-representation as 23andme clients; for other possible explanations, see this previous post.)

I'm currently sharing my genetic information with 336 "cousins" and I've had 30 contact requests turned down (it happens). Also according to RF, I have a few dozen third cousins, a few fourth and fifth cousins, but the vast majority are so-called distant cousins - that is, people with whom I might share an ancestor from several centuries ago. Up to now, I haven't been able to confirm any of the estimated closest relationships, something I would have to do using the scarce information I have on my grand-parents, great-grandparents and so forth.