Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hacking Genomes

Yaniv Erlich, a bioinformaticist at the Whitehead Institute, announced on October 24, 2013, that he and his colleagues had assembled a family tree made up of 13 million people.  The genomic data used to analyze this massive family tree came from a genomics services provider called www.geni.com.  Here is an excerpt from an article in Nature about Erlich's research project:
Using data pulled from online genealogy sites, a renowned ‘genome hacker’ has constructed what is likely the biggest family trees ever assembled. The researcher and his team now plan to use the data — including a single uber-pedigree comprising 13 million individuals, which stretches back to the 15th century — to analyse the inheritance of complex genetic traits, such as longevity and facial features.
 George Burns once said "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."  For the huge family Erlich has discovered, there may be few cities in which to hide.