Connect with us

Technology

Twins get some ‘mystifying’ results when they put 5 ancestry DNA kits to the test

Editor

Published

on

[ad_1]

One set of identical twins, two different ancestry profiles.

At least that’s the suggestion from one of the world’s largest ancestry DNA testing companies.

Last spring, Marketplace host Charlsie Agro and her twin sister, Carly, bought home kits from AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA, and mailed samples of their DNA to each company for analysis.

Despite having virtually identical DNA, the twins did not receive matching results from any of the companies.

In most cases, the results from the same company traced each sister’s ancestry to the same parts of the world — albeit by varying percentages.

But the results from California-based 23andMe seemed to suggest each twin had unique twists in their ancestry composition.

According to 23andMe’s findings, Charlsie has nearly 10 per cent less “broadly European” ancestry than Carly. She also has French and German ancestry (2.6 per cent) that her sister doesn’t share.

The identical twins also apparently have different degrees of Eastern European heritage — 28 per cent for Charlsie compared to 24.7 per cent for Carly. And while Carly’s Eastern European ancestry was linked to Poland, the country was listed as “not detected” in Charlsie’s results.

“The fact that they present different results for you and your sister, I find very mystifying,” said Dr. Mark Gerstein, a computational biologist at Yale University.

Twins’ DNA ‘shockingly similar’

Marketplace sent the results from all five companies to Gerstein’s team for analysis.

He says any results the Agro twins received from the same DNA testing company should have been identical.

And there’s a simple reason for that: The raw data collected from both sisters’ DNA is nearly exactly the same.

“It’s shockingly similar,” he said.

Watch: Yale scientists mystified by different results for twin sisters.

Yale scientists are “mystified” by different results for twin sisters. 1:00

The team at Yale was able to download and analyze the raw data set that each company used to perform its calculations.

An entire DNA sample is made up of about three billion parts, but companies that provide ancestry tests look at about 700,000 of those to spot genetic differences.

According to the raw data from 23andMe, 99.6 per cent of those parts were the same, which is why Gerstein and his team were so confused by the results. They concluded the raw data used by the other four companies was also statistically identical.

Still, none of the five companies provided the same ancestry breakdown for the twins.

“We think the numbers should be spot on the same,” Gerstein said.

While he can’t say for certain what accounts for the difference, Gerstein suspects it has to do with the algorithms each company uses to crunch the DNA data.

“The story has to be the calculation. The way these calculations are run are different.”

When asked why the twins didn’t get the same results given the fact their DNA is so similar, 23andMe told Marketplace in an email that even those minor variations can lead its algorithm to assign slightly different ancestry estimates.

The company said it approaches the development of its tools and reports with scientific rigour, but admits its results are “statistical estimates.”

Differences across all 5 companies

Family had told the Agro sisters their ancestors come from Sicily, Poland and Ukraine.

However, the results each sister received from the ancestry companies revealed some surprising — and, in some cases, conflicting — family history.

Charlsie Agro and her aunt, Marjoh Agro, on vacation in Malta last summer. Before using DNA ancestry kits, the Agro sisters believed most of their ancestry traces back to Sicily, Poland and Ukraine. (CBC)

AncestryDNA found the twins have predominantly Eastern European ancestry (38 per cent for Carly and 39 per cent for Charlsie).

But the results from MyHeritage trace the majority of their ancestry to the Balkans (60.6 per cent for Carly and 60.7 per cent for Charlsie).

One of the more surprising findings was in Living DNA’s results, which pointed to a small percentage of ancestry from England for Carly, but Scotland and Ireland for Charlsie.

Another twist came courtesy of FamilyTreeDNA, which assigned 13-14 per cent of the twins’ ancestry to the Middle East — significantly more than the other four companies, two of which found no trace at all.

Paul Maier, chief geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA, acknowledges that identifying genetic distinctions in people from different places is a challenge.

“Finding the boundaries is itself kind of a frontiering science, so I would say that makes it kind of a science and an art,” Maier said in a phone interview.

How it works

In order to determine someone’s ancestry, companies like 23andMe compare a DNA sample to what is commonly referred to as a reference panel. A reference panel is made up of a select number of DNA samples, from previous customers who have taken the test and/or from publicly available DNA databases.

Dr. Simon Gravel, a population geneticist with McGill University who is also part of the 1000 Genomes Project, says ancestry companies will take 700,000 or so of your DNA segments and use an algorithm to compare your segments to those in their reference panel.

“They’re going to match it to different parts of the world,” he said. “In the end, there’s going to be some overall of these [reference panel] contributions where your DNA matched better, and that’s going to be their estimate of how much ancestry you have.”

They kind of need to take a pencil more or less and say, ‘That’s a region.’ And different companies draw different circles.– Dr. Simon Gravel, population geneticist

Different companies use different panels, so they’re each likely to provide the same customer with different ancestry results.

In a statement to Marketplace, AncestryDNA acknowledged that the size of the reference panel is key. The company said it is “always working to improve its science” and that its “new, larger reference panel will give customers more precise results.”

Why so different?

There are a variety of factors that can affect the accuracy of results from an ancestry company, Dr. Gravel says, but of particular importance is the size and quality of its reference panel. The larger and more representative it is, the more accurate the results, he says.

“If you have fewer people that you can compare to, then you make more shortcuts,” he said.

“You also run more of a risk of having missed diversity that you might not know existed in one particular region.”

Another reason for discrepancies in the results from different companies is the arbitrary way each company defines the world’s regions, Gravel says.

“They kind of need to take a pencil more or less and say, ‘That’s a region.’ And different companies draw different circles.”

Watch: Do consumers expect DNA ancestry results to be 100% accurate?

Do consumers believe the hype around DNA ancestry tests? 1:00

Gravel also says the tests tend to be more accurate for people with European ancestry, as more people with that particular background have been tested.

He cautions people not to interpret their test results as definitive. He says a testing company can use DNA ancestry kits to trace a person’s ancestry to a particular continent with statistical accuracy, but anything more specific than that, like pinpointing a country or town, is less reliable.

Lack of oversight

The biggest DNA ancestry companies have tested millions of people. MyHeritage, for example, says it expects sales of well over $100 million this year.

Despite the popularity of ancestry testing, there is absolutely no government or professional oversight of the industry to ensure the validity of the results.

It’s a situation Gravel finds troubling.

“Usually in science we have a process like peer review and make the data accessible, and make the algorithms accessible, that’s how we ensure the high quality of the data,” he said.

“In this case, we don’t have access to that because the companies keep the data private.”

That’s why Gravel says consumers should take the results generated by these tests with a grain of salt. People need to understand these tests are not subject to the same standard as diagnostic medical testing. They are more like a “recreational scientific activity,” he said.

Similar to 23andMe, MyHeritage says its results are “ethnicity estimates.”

When spokesperson Rafi Mendelson was then asked why MyHeritage presents results with such certainty — video results sent to customers declare, “You are,” before listing a person’s ancestry — he said he believes the messaging is clear, that results are only estimates, and that North American consumers are especially clear on this.

Results subject to change

Whatever your ancestry results, don’t get too attached to them. They could change.

In September, AncestryDNA informed customers that it had updated their estimates with the following message:

“Your DNA doesn’t change, but we now have 13,000 additional reference samples and powerful, new science to give you better ethnicity results.”

The ancestry estimates used in this story are from Nov. 6, 2018, after the company updated the twins’ results.

The new estimates included previously undetected ancestral ties to Russia, Greece, the Balkans and Baltics.

— With files from Jeannie Stiglic

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Technology

The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

Editor

Published

on

By

Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

Continue Reading

Technology

PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

Editor

Published

on

By

Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

Continue Reading

Technology

Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

Editor

Published

on

By

KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

Continue Reading

Chat

Trending