Dr. John Storlie recently received word that he was officially accepted into the Harvard Personal Genome Project, which means that their genomes will be completely sequenced, a $20,000 value, for free.
“This not only is an exciting opportunity for us, but it will increase the value of all those genetic results already received by individuals in the community who share genetic material with us as identified by our 1 million SNP chips, since we can infer from our sequencing the actual sequence of those sections of their chromosomes which are identical to ours as identified by the kits given out by Giants of the Earth,” said John Storlie. “Further, as of October 15, 2010, the Harvard Personal Genome Project began signing people up for the next round of sequencing, in which they will sequence 10,000 individuals. I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in this sign up for this opportunity. I recommend that you sign up now, because the wait time could be considerable and the interest will be great.
Local residents have been amazed at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center’s recent genetic discoveries. Using advanced autosomal genetic analysis, which can identify long stretches of identical DNA segments, Giants of the Earth has been able to confirm not only that most residents of the town of Spring Grove are likely related within 6 generations, but how they are related, even in cases where there was no preexisting family tree to search. “The interrelatedness of the town opens up numerous possibilities and makes us a desirable location for genetic analysis, such as has been performed on the population of Iceland,” said Storlie.
Currently, residents who have joined Giants of the Earth Heritage Center at a Giant ($250) level receive a free comprehensive ancestry and health genetic test kit. The kit contains a small saliva collection tube. The member’s genome is extracted from the cells in the saliva and the genomic data is generated and compared to tens of thousands of others around the world who have taken the test. When a large amount of your genomic data is identical to another person, it can be inferred with a high degree of certainty that that person is your relative, and, based on the size and number of the identical regions on your chromosomes, the relationship can be estimated out to 10th cousin.
“This information is coming in fast and it is incredibly helpful. It is allowing me to merge family trees with scientific confidence. All too often, there have been cases where I have merged individuals within two family trees only to find out later that there were actually, for example, two Ole Olsons born in 1862 in Spring Grove, and those Ole Olsons were actually not even related. Genetics comes to the rescue and will save genealogists a lot of time and also improve the accuracy of the trees. Further, I use the genetic analysis to find the relatives in Norway, who then connect me with the numerous farms from which they come. People don’t realize how many ancestral farms they may have and how their written record, without the clues of genetic analysis, is usually only a small snippet of their actual ancestry. A lot of times people will come in and tell me, ‘I have all my ancestors traced back to the 1600s.’ They don’t realize actually how many ancestors they should have in their tree if they actually had done that.” For example, if we assume that each generation averages 30 years, which is actually pretty conservative, then about 13 generations would exist between a young person today and the 1600s. If someone had no ancestors who married their relatives, then a complete family tree going back to the 1600s would include the names of over 16,000 individuals. In fact, there was a lot of marriage between distant cousins, which decreases the overall size of the family trees, but increases their complexity. Further, it opens up an increased probability for finding organ and stem cell matches within our community and in Norway. This means that Spring Grove is an excellent community in which to begin studies using regenerative stem cell therapy.
“Initially, I was only hoping that we could get funding for 1,000,000 SNP genomic analysis of a large portion of the town. Now, in addition to that it is actually possible for a large number of individuals within the town to get completely sequenced for free. This opens up enormous possibilities, since we are genetically just different enough from the Icelandic population to have a few new genetic variables, but we don’t have so many new variables that analysis would get bogged down. Further, we are largely from the same stock of genetic material as those individuals who have contributed to the immense Norwegian Biobank, but our residents are exposed to different environmental variables. This variation in environment with a relatively constant genomic background might help us better understand the role of the environment in the creation of the phenome from the genome.”
“Spring Grove’s population is unusually talented and educated for a small town. We have an excellent communications infrastructure and would be a prime location for genomic studies and further analysis of existing databases. In addition, we could serve as a source for controlled studies by regional colleges and university professors and students who would be interested in serious scientific research using the latest high throughput genomic analysis. So, if you are interested in signing up for free sequencing, please do. And if you need help in understanding the process, I can help provide Giants members with resources that will help you to answer the questions involved in the application process.”