D.I.Y. genome-wide association

By Razib Khan | April 7, 2011 3:35 pm

Saw this on Twitter, but I’ve talked to others who have brought up this issue:

It seems the logistic issues are the big problem. How do you validate phenotype? Tight-knit communities could probably work just based on trust, but then how do you scale up the sample size to detect loci of small effect? I think it will come, but I’m not sure when. Though obviously when it comes to disease phenotypes there’s going to be more motivation by interested parties. In the near future we’ll have pretty cheap full sequences, so one could probe differences within families to pick out possible mutations which might account for  the variance you see across siblings. But would people really want to know why they’re smarter/stupider or better looking/uglier than their brother/sister? Isn’t the reality enough?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics, Genomics
  • dan

    i think it would be really cool for families with anorexia or other OCD related problems, for example. it really doesn’t change much but you can sometimes see a change in they way a person approaches life issues like those when they’re not so far in the dark about what causes them. personally, it’s more interesting than the history of populations. i really hope the future holds some cool/controversial discoveries for behavioral genetics.

  • http://changelog.ca/ Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    There’s some things that I think would interesting to try to investigate. For example, there’s this paper: “Mathematically gifted male adolescents activate a unique brain network during mental rotation“. Is there a “simple” genotype behind this? There might not be, and the effort might be all for naught. (And note I’m assuming this is a much simpler question than investigating the genetics behind intelligence. A tiny tiny subset, if you will. I could be wrong though, of course.)

    Many of the autistic / asperger studies seem (at least to me) to have a sampling bias where autistics whom are considered disabled are sometimes the only members of their sample or heavily weighted in their favor and high functionings aren’t even included or when they are included often are part of the “bad” group. (At least that’s how I understood the many of the papers.) (And just to say it explicitly, the number of high functionings is much greater than the number of disabled.) Some of these “bad” genes/alleles they are finding should be checked against a control group made up of high functionings. Obviously though, I could be creating a false dichotomy here between disabled and high functionings, but at the very least this should point to that these genes they are finding may not necessarily be “bad”. Either way, it could be something some motivated amateur could investigate. (Note, I suspect an investigation into this may serve at least in part as an investigation into things involved in and perhaps (at least in part) responsible for human giftedness and even genius. So IMO it’s a very interesting thing to investigate. But I digress and I could be wrong.)

    What about tackling a gene / morality question? (The moral foundation theory crew have made some claims that would suggest that at least in part there is a genetic component to some moral inclinations.)

    There so many interesting phenotypes one could try to investigate.

    Obviously without having a full genome available, some of these questions may not be able to be answered. But one could get lucky with the subset that 23andMe provides. And I am aware that many of these could be very very difficult questions to figure out, due to things like loci of small effect, multiple genotypes causing the same phenotype, correlation != causation, etc. Also, DIY genomicists don’t have techniques like gene knockout available to them when studying humans. (At least I’d assume so :-) )

    Perhaps creating a system like what’s at YourMorals.org (i.e., a questionnaire system) and having people submit the 23andMe data could yield interesting results.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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