This week: Are the conclusion about ‘alien’ mummy, Ata correct? Where is the African DNA in the search for cures? And is it possible to bury family secrets in the age of DNA testing?
Experts Say Recent ‘Alien’ Mummy Study Was Deeply Flawed and Unethical
The Atacama Mummy, or Ata as it’s known, was discovered 15 years ago in a deserted Chilean town in the Atacama Desert. The specimen is only about six inches long, it’s missing a pair of ribs, and it has a highly deformed head and face.
Earlier this year, scientists from Stanford University concluded that the strange skeleton belonged to a human girl whose physical malformations were the result of several severe genetic mutations. Now, Gizmodo reports that a team of international experts is questioning these findings, and accusing the scientists of breaching standard research ethics. Read →
When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity
These are boom times for consumer DNA tests. Most people are curious where their ancestors came from. A few are interested in health. Some are adoptees or children conceived from sperm donation who are explicitly looking for their biological parents. DNA testing companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA regularly tout happy reunions on their websites.
But not all biological parents want to be found. In conversations and correspondence with more than two dozen people for this story, writes Sarah Zhang, for the Atlantic, I heard of DNA tests that unearthed affairs, secret pregnancies, quietly buried incidents of rape and incest, and fertility doctors using their own sperm to inseminate patients. These secrets otherwise would have—or even did—go the grave. Read →
Cancer Scientists Have Ignored African DNA in the Search for Cures
Charles Rotimi first realized the future was passing him by around 2005. The Human Genome Project had recently finished spelling out an entire set of human DNA.
Following that breakthrough, scientists in six countries across the globe had begun collecting blood samples to find genes responsible for various conditions, including serious diseases, which could lead to treatments. And Rotimi, who was leading that collection effort in Africa, had the sick feeling that history was repeating itself. Read →