Genetic Tests – Ready for Public Consumption?

Unlocking the predictive elements in our DNA

Unlocking the predictive features in our DNA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent another round of letters to companies offering genetic tests, suggesting they didn’t have the “proper clearance” to sell these tests to the public. Concern remains over how tests are marketed, and whether the consumers are receiving reliable information.

The age of DNA testing is in front of us, there is no doubt. There are many companies attempting to unlock the mysteries of human DNA and provide meaningful health information to consumers. Part of the appeal is to be the first—and to develop proprietary tests or data interpretations.

One of the pillars of science is reproducibility. Can the test be performed by independent laboratories, producing the same result? In the case of companies taking consumers data and filtering it by scientists to reveal health “predictions,” they are perhaps reluctant to share their methods. Therefore the results are up for interpretation.

And there-in lies one of the two main issues. One, what is the proper oversight by a federal regulation team on cutting edge DNA interpretations, and two, how can the average consumer interpret the results if they are provided direct-to-consumer, cutting out the physician or health care provider? (then there is the question of whether the physician can even interpret the results.)

In his article “If You Paid $500 for a Gene Test, Would You Know What to Do With It?”, John Tozzi writes “DNA tests can reliably establish family ties, like paternity tests, or reveal a person’s ethnic heritage. They can also tell whether people are at risk for certain rare diseases like cystic fibrosis that are directly linked to genetic mutations, or for passing the risk on to their children. But when it comes to information relevant to people’s health, especially about common conditions like heart disease or diabetes, the value of genetics becomes much murkier.”

When 23andme was asked by the FDA to halt it’s sales of their genetic tests in 2013, it was partly due to the press they and other firms were generating as research articles exposed differences in the results of testing the same DNA. Each company was testing with their own proprietary data, and producing different results for the same person. This does not mean 23andme results were wrong—in fact, 23andme recently re-appeared with FDA approval on a limited set of genetic tests this year.

The number of approved genetic tests grows every year. Based on popular opinions, the results of such tests should continue to go through and not around physicians, who are there to help interpret the results and discuss the next steps. The other popular opinion is that we are still at the infancy DNA testing, and that the age of DNA testing is still in front of us.

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Tom Jones Getting DNA Test to See If He Has Black Heritage

Location South Africa. Green pin on the map.

DNA Tests tell an Ancestral Story

Tom Jones has announced he’s wondered all his life if he’s “part black,” and is going to seek out a DNA test to satisfy his curiosity. There are many tests on the market today, including, that will tell a person if they have ancestors in population groups that include Sub Saharan Africa.

Thomas Jones Woodward was bon in South Wales, England. Now 75, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006. His musical career flourished in the 1960’s, including decades of performances in Las Vegas. His shows at Caesars Palace were known to include women throwing undergarments on stage—along with hotel keys!

Jones’s singing style developed from American soul music, with early influences from R&B and blues singers. He has always been perceived as having black roots. “A lot of people still think I am black. When I first came to America, people who had heard me sing on the radio would be surprised that I was white when they saw me,” Jones was quoted as saying.

This wouldn’t be the first DNA test for Tom Jones. Although married since 1957, at the height of his fame, Jones’s philandering was legendary. One affair resulted in the birth of a son after a brief relationship with model Katherine Berkery. A legal battle ensued, and DNA testing was included. In 1989 a U.S. court ruled that Jones was the boy’s father.

This time around, the “black heritage” test Jones is seeking falls into the “ancestry” category. There are a few labs that offer the testing, and look at a person’s heritage while man lived in clusters around the world. In the Ancestrybydna test, there are four distinct population groups: European, Indigenous American, East Asian, and Sub Saharan Africa. Each are represented by a percentage in a DNA Origins report.

We’ll keep a close eye on what Mr. Jones discovers. Many people find that their origins are exactly as expected, but it’s not unusual for people to unlock unexpected family revelations!

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DNA Diagnostics Center Discovers Rare Chimera Paternity Case

Human fetus

DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) was recently involved with a unique paternity case where the alleged father proved to be a chimera. A chimera is an individual whose tissues contain cells from a sibling due to a mixing of cells during gestation. Physical clues are often present, in the form of two-toned, patchy skin tones.

If two different eggs are fertilized with different sperm, and if each matures, they will ultimately produce twins.  In a chimera, early in gestation the cells from one of the twins fuses with the growing cells of the other twin resulting in only one viable embryo going forward. This embryo contains cells from both twins in a single individual. Not all tissues will be chimeric. Those tissues that are chimeric will contain DNA from both of the twins while those tissues that are not chimeric will contain DNA from only one of the twins.

The occurrence of chimerism is difficult to determine since it does not lead to adverse medical conditions. It is likely that all of us have DNA in some of our cells that differ by a few DNA letters in the 3 billion that are present in each cell. It is only when a sufficient number of cells in the germ line tissue (those that make sperm or eggs) are chimeric that paternity or maternity results can be affected. DDC considers chimerism in testing and requests appropriate tissue samples to clarify those cases.

The chimera alleged father presented the first chimera case involving germ line tissue seen by DDC in its 20 years. The cells in the sperm producing tissue of the alleged father were chimeric while the cells from the inside of his cheek, which are typically used for paternity testing, were not chimeric. As a result, the person was excluded as the biological father of a child when his buccal cell DNA was used and included when his sperm cell DNA was used.

Although chimerism in paternity is rare, DDC does incorporate chimera detection in its paternity testing process. To learn more, see the DDC website ( for the posters on this chimera paternity case, co-authored by Dr. Michael Baird, Chief Science Officer at DDC, and presented this year (2015) at the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting in Baltimore and at the International Symposium on Human Identification held in Dallas.

For media inquiries, please contact Jan Strode at 1-619-890-4040 or at

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“It’s in our DNA!”

Is "IT" in your companies DNA?

Is “IT” in your companies DNA?

If a company had DNA, that is. When corporate leaders say “It’s in our DNA”, they’re really saying “It’s in the fabric, in the make-up of this company.”

We hear it in commercials and in slogans. It’s almost always described as a positive, although we know our DNA carries both the good and the not so good. Research is focused squarely on the genetic trouble-makers, trying to find the keys to our DNA that might unlock the mysteries of inherited disease and other genetic signals.

But let’s stick to the positive. Here are some of the latest big and small organizations that use DNA to describe their culture. With most companies, the reference describes an overriding philosophy.

  • Toyota loves to reference DNA, found in many corporate documents
    • The willingness to take on new challenges has been in Toyota’s DNA since it’s founding
    • You can’t become legendary overnight. And with that history in our DNA, it’s not wonder 90% of all the Toyota Corollas sold in the last ten years are still on the road today.
    • It’s in Toyota’s DNA that mistakes made once will not be repeated.
  • Steve Jobs, describing Apple
    • Our DNA is a consumer company—for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about.
  • Gucci’s Frida Giannini
    • I don’t want to be too ‘classic’ because it’s not in the DNA of Gucci. You need to be a little provocative.
  • The United States, as described by President Barack Obama
    • The president said while attitudes about race have improved significantly since he was born to a white mother and a black father, the legacy of slavery “casts a long shadow a that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on.”

Here are a few others on the bandwagon…

  • Samford University
    • Education is in our DNA
  • SeaMart Foods
    • The Spirit of Alaska is in our DNA 
  • San Jose Jazz Summer Fest
    • Latin Jazz in is our DNA
  • Milwaukeans, according to “edible Milwaukee
    • Outdoor drinking: you hear the phrase and your mind conjures sunshine, good company and cold ones. It’s practically in our DNA.
  • Georgia-Pacific Packaging (very busy DNA)
    • Sustainability. Customer Focus. Innovation. Quality. Value Creation. These are the strands in our DNA that set us apart.

Companies can create the messaging that ties DNA to corporate culture. As we know, companies are made up of individuals, all with unique DNA. Therein lies the real story—how is the real DNA of the company leaders influencing the culture? Is entrepreneurship in our DNA? Is creativity passed on in DNA? Can leadership be influenced by DNA?

The information in our DNA is impossible to quantify, and yet we are working every day to extract any glimmer of intel we can from it’s well of material. Just this month the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on research into how cells repair their DNA. Now the Noble Prize – there’s an award with prestige in it’s DNA!

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Smart Diets Based on DNA Testing

Can DNA testing better define healthy and unhealthy food?

Can DNA testing better define healthy and unhealthy food?

The field of study that can lead to smart diets based on DNA testing, and the unique DNA in each of us, is rapidly gaining momentum. Study’s have shown that we can be much smarter about the food we eat based on how our bodies process and metabolize food. That said, the facts are in front of every day, but we still tend to eat more for the satisfaction in our mind, and our taste buds, than we do for the health and well being of our total body.

One study of note points to the correlation of diet and genetics. The Inuit’s of Greenland, those most native to the country, were recently studied relative to the fish oil they consume in their diet, and the potential health benefits derived from their high fat consumption. They were compared to European and Chinese populations. It was found that even though the Inuit’s live in one of the most extreme environments on the planet, they have a lower risk of heart disease than many other people.

Why? It’s believed there is a connection between the Inuit’s DNA and protective effects from their high omega-3 diet. There are skeptics, who say all can benefit from the omega-3’s, regardless of their DNA profile. In the article “Is fish oil good for you? Depends on your DNA,” Elizabeth Pennisi explored the research of the Inuits by Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley. She also obtained comments from various geneticists.

One excerpt: “The results imply that people lacking Inuit DNA may not be getting the same protective effects from this substance, Nielsen says. More work clarifying the connection between high omega-3 and the Inuits’ heart health is needed, but this new work is a good start, adds geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, Seattle: “You can count on your fingers where we have a pretty good idea of what the agent of change was,” he says. In this case, the connection to diet seems clear.

Pennisi concludes that geneticists “envision the day when diets will be determined not by the latest fads and research findings, but through personalized genetic profiles. “We realize now that different human populations have adapted to different diets, so what’s healthy for one person might not be healthy for other people,” Nielsen says. “We need to have personalized diet choices based on genetics.”

Which still leaves us with the question of whether we as a culture will embrace any new findings that conclusively tell us what the right things are to put in our bodies. We know what not to eat, but it doesn’t stop us from our daily processed fast foods–especially here in America. It will be nice to know how our DNA can tell us what to eat, but are we ready to listen?


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Understanding DNA In 10 Minutes

DNA molecules

DNA Helix

DNA is now a common term, but do we really know much about it? What story it tells about each of us? Understanding DNA in 10 minutes might be a challenge, but Tom Ireland of Focus University has boiled it down for a quick read.

Since 1953 when Watson and Crick declared “We have discovered the secret of life!” our understanding and practical uses of DNA have improved every year. But one thing is for sure—we still don’t know more than we know. The two biochemists weren’t exaggerating: DNA unlocks many of the mysteries of how living things make, replicate, and repair themselves.

DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, is found in every cell of every living thing. It carries all of the instructions for an organism to build, maintain and repair itself. By replicating and passing on their DNA, animals, plants and microorganisms can impart their characteristics to their offspring. This is critical to the Darwin Theory of Evolution, and how the strong survive—by passing on their traits through their DNA.

The article shares the following (shared directly from article):


  • In humans, half the DNA in our cells stems from our mother, and half from our father. This is why we inherit a mixture of characteristics from both parents. DNA is a hugely long and complex code, and everyone’s is unique. This ‘genetic code’ can tell us many things, including details about ancestry and potential health problems.


  • Genes are sections of our DNA sequence that contain the code for a specific protein, normally linked to a specific function or physical characteristic. In humans, for example, a stretch of DNA known as ‘OCA2’ has a strong influence on a person’s eye color.
  • Variations in these parts of our DNA lead to the different characteristics we see among individuals. For example, people with blue eyes have different DNA at ‘OCA2’ than people with brown eyes.
  • A common misconception about genes is that one gene is responsible for one trait, which is actually highly unusual. More commonly, physical traits result from a combination of many genes.


  • The discovery of DNA’s ‘double helix’ structure helped reveal the beautifully simple way a DNA molecule replicates itself. With the help of other chemicals in the cell, the double helix untwists and the two strands split down the middle, like a zip. Because A always pairs with T, and C with G, both strands then form an exact copy as more nucleotides are attracted into the corresponding place opposite the freshly split strands.
  • This replication process is crucially important, because cells are constantly dividing and replicating. If DNA is copied incorrectly, the resulting cells have jumbled instructions and can start growing out of control. This is often how a cancerous tumor starts.


  • The discovery of DNA’s ‘double helix’ structure helped reveal the beautifully simple way a DNA molecule replicates itself. With the help of other chemicals in the cell, the double helix untwists and the two strands split down the middle, like a zip. Because A always pairs with T, and C with G, both strands then form an exact copy as more nucleotides are attracted into the corresponding place opposite the freshly split strands.
  • This replication process is crucially important, because cells are constantly dividing and replicating. If DNA is copied incorrectly, the resulting cells have jumbled instructions and can start growing out of control. This is often how a cancerous tumor starts.


  • We already use DNA for a range of immensely useful applications such as home genetic test kits that can tell us about our past, present and future: what our ancestors were like, what medicines we should take or avoid, and what illnesses we may develop many years from now.
  • We can also use it to settle paternity disputes, or catch criminals, by searching for tiny amounts of DNA found at a crime scene.
  • But that’s just the start. As DNA sequencing becomes vastly easier and cheaper, what was once unthinkable is now eminently possible. Already, scientists can create personalised medicines that are tailored to work with your exact combination of genes. They are reading the genomes of cancer cells, in order to learn more about them and fight them. Gene therapy can be used to fight genetic disorders by inserting new genes into people’s DNA.
  • In the future, biologists may be able to create entirely new organisms that exist solely to produce useful products for us. We may even be able to edit the genome of our offspring – not only to guarantee our children are free from genetic disorders, but also to ensure they have the characteristics we want.

This information might not make you a DNA expert, even if you could read this in 10 minutes. But it provides enough information to get you started, and perhaps like me, makes you eager to learn what DNA mysteries are uncovered in our near future.



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Celebrity Paternity Testing Around the World

Photographers are taking a picture of a film star

Celebrities and DNA Testing

Here in America, we are bombarded with celebrity news, and it grows with today’s technologies like Twitter. “Baby Daddy” news always grabs the headlines, and celebs continue to find ways to have babies leading to “[insert star here] Demands Paternity Test!” But the U.S. doesn’t have a lock on celebrity paternity testing—here are the top 5 paternity headlines from around the world.

Kim Hyun Joong—South Korea

Boy bands aren’t exclusive to the U.S. either, and Kim Huyn Joong was a member and lead rapper of the South Korean band SS501. In February of 2015, his girlfriend reported that she was pregnant. Now serving in the military, Kim has stated that “if” he is the father, after paternity testing can be administered, then he will take full responsibility and help with child support. He also made it clear he has not intention of marrying the baby’s mom.

Zola, and Utatakho—South Africa

In South Africa this past July, local TV channel Mzznsi Magic debuted their reality show Utatatkho, with paternity episode. But they promised it would be less dramatic than the Maury show, seen in the U.S. Actor and music star Zola, a familiar face in South African reality TV, is the host. He too has had a very public clash over child support of his two kids in 2007, so he knows the emotion of paternity testing. “I can relate to Utatakho on a very personal level. I know the pain directly and wonder how many men go through the same thing.

Kyrie Irving—USA

One report said “Welcome to life as a super-star in the NBA.” It’s true, the NBA has been a strong provider of paternity testing headlines, to be sure! From Sean Kemp to Michael Jordan, not a year goes by without paternity drama. In this case, Kyrie apparently impregnated Andrea Wilson, former Miss Texas. TMZ reports Irving filed documents in a Texas court, alleging Wilson is pregnant with his child, and he wants a paternity test to prove it. We’ll have to wait until the baby is born (December?) to find out the results.

Louis Tomlinson—England

English pop boy band One Direction has been in the news and at the top of charts since it finished third in the British X Factor in 2010. Louis is now one of the four members of the group, and has been recently rumored to have paternity drama. The Hollywood Gossip reports that his ex-girlfriend Briana Jungwirth may have been with another guy before—and during—her time with Louis. Tomlinson seems to be excited about the prospect of fatherhood, but now also might be demanding a paternity test to be sure.

Floyd Shivambu—South Africa

The EFF is a socialist political party in South Africa, currently the third-largest party in both houses of the Parliament. Shivambu is deputy president, and is reportedly facing a court order to show whether he is the father of a five year old boy. A woman is seeking monthly “maintenance,” or child support, and the politician claims he has no knowledge of the boy—or the woman for that matter!

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Finding A Lost Identity — With DNA Testing

1036064-6-20150920094035-florida-man-with-amnesia-for-years-finds-out-his-real-identityIn Jacksonville, Florida, a man was beaten and left for dead outside a Burger King in 2004, according to WJXT. For the last 11 years, he’s been wandering through life without any idea of who he is. It took time, detective work, and DNA testing, and now finally he is in touch with his real family.

Imagine waking up tomorrow in a strange place with no idea of who you are. You have no ID, and no one recognizes you. We’ve seen such story lines on TV, but in an hour, everything is back to normal. In this man’s case, he woke up in a hospital, after being beaten nearly to death, and left by a dumpster. He suffers from what doctors diagnosed as retrograde amnesia. It took much longer that an hour, and still today, it’s not over yet.

He called himself Benjamin Kyle, BK for short. With no identification, he struggled to fulfill his basic needs. He couldn’t be accepted at local shelters, he couldn’t get a job, and he couldn’t qualify for government benefits. BK appeared on local and national television shows, hoping that someone would recognize him and solve the mystery. No one came forward. People in Jacksonville stepped forward, and one restaurant owner gave him a job, and a place to live, in 2011.

CeCe Moore, a Genetic Genealogist, also saw BK’s story and came to his aid. She formed a team, and began the quest to find BK’s relatives with the use of DNA technology. Moore had worked primarily with adoption-related searches, for people who wanted to identify their birth families.

Moore and the team worked for two and a half years, searching available DNA databases, attempting to find a match to BK’s DNA. Eventually, they found a match.

DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) is an industry leader in DNA paternity testing, where fathers, mothers, and children come forward for DNA paternity testing. But the Center also receives calls every day from mothers asking, “Can you help me find my babies father?” People hear about “DNA databases” and think that perhaps their child can submit a DNA sample and compare it to fathers in a database, to find a match. No such database exists.

There are databases like CODIS, developed by the federal government for the primary use of  cataloging convicted criminals, but these cannot be accessed by the public in search of a relative. Other privately held DNA information, like that at DDC,  is stored securely and is proprietary. The profiles from past tested parties cannot be shared without the consent of the tested parties.

In BK’s case, he now knows that he has relatives in Indiana, and plans to meet them soon. He is keeping the reunion quiet, out of respect for his family’s wishes. He plans to stay in Jacksonville, where he has created a circle of friends, and want to repay those that have been so generous to him for the past decade. He thanked his friends via Facebook, where you can read about his long, and very public experience.

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New Study Uses DNA Testing for Ancient Ancestry

DNA testing has provided answers for all kinds of human relationships, and in some cases, helps us understand our ancestry. While this new study presented by geneticists may not affect your family tree, it challenges what experts study and Genetic common ancestry concept for evolution of primatesdebate about the evolution of Neanderthal to Homo sapiens.

DNA analysis of 430,000-year-old bones discovered the Sima de los Huesos, or ‘pit of bones,’ in the mountains of Burgos, Spain, show they belong to Neanderthals. This after 2 years of intense testing of degraded, ancient DNA. Before this finding, anthropologists believed Neanderthals first evolved around 400,000 years ago. The DNA analysis, say the researchers, suggests Neanderthals emerged well before this time—up to 765,000 years ago.

The research findings were presented at the fifth annual meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). The bones have been studied since the mid-1990s, but the new DNA testing performed was with mitochondrial DNA. Scientists were able to extract and sequence nuclear DNA, the genetic material found in the center of all cells in the body, and in ancient fossils. They were able to obtain 1 to 2 million base pairs of ancient nuclear DNA form a tooth and a leg bone.

In an article on the discovery by Ann Gibbons, she says “Researchers at the meeting were impressed by this breakthrough in ancient DNA research. ‘This has been the next frontier with ancient DNA,’ says evolutionary biologist Greger Larson of the University of Oxford in the UK.”

Our search for our heritage, for our individual ancestry, has led to a demand for DNA tests to shed light on our past. People look for both recent lineage, 2-10 generations, and much further back. Unlike the study mentioned above, some DNA tests are available to anyone who wants to test their own DNA. offers DNA tests that let you know what part of the world your ancient relatives lived, by breaking the world into four main population groups.

Look for the study of the Sima de los Huesos bones to continue, and for new fossils to be found around the world. With the advances in DNA testing and technology, questions will be answered, and the theories of evolution will continue to be debated.

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Finding Loved Ones with the Help of DNA

Grandmother Reunited

Grandmother Reunited

With the help of DNA testing, relatives can be found using many different testing techniques. Grandparents can find grandchildren. Adoptive parents can find children. Loved ones can use many tools to search for and find who they think could be relatives—court documents, hospital records, etc. But the reunion may not be cause for celebration until DNA can prove the relationship.

The story of Argentinian grandmothers using DNA to identify stolen children was told recently in Over 30 years ago, Argentina was embroiled in a military dictatorship and “a brutal reign of terror that resulted in the disappearance of up to 30,000 people who were abducted, tortured and killed. Many children were disappeared or born after their mothers were raped in prison, and then adopted by childless couples in the military and police forces.”

In 1977, a group of grandmothers formed a group called Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, or Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Their goal—find over 400 stolen children. To date, they have identified 117. As early as the 1980’s, they pushed for a DNA database to be established for their search. In May of 1987, the National DNA Data Bank (BNDG) was created, and began to operate in 1987.

For this kind of program to be successful, support and DNA from each side of the search is imperative—both from Grandparents and parents, as well as the children, now in their 30’s. Next, DNA technology needs to be applied as it becomes available. For example, Y-STR testing can be used to trace male lineage, while mitochondrial DNA can trace female lineage. Each passes only through male or female relatives, and can only be found though very unique DNA testing processes.

DNA testing companies are often contacted with the request of finding a loved one. There might be the hope that there is a large database of people that one can link to, but this is not the case. The FBI has CODIS in the U.S., but this is not a shared database. Projects like the one in Argentina are very unique, but can provide reunions through advanced DNA testing. If the people that are trying to establish a biological relationship are available for testing, databases aren’t needed. A DNA testing laboratory like DDC that has many different testing techniques can offer a free consultation, as well as testing options.

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