The WIRED Guide to Genetic Testing

Wired | 6/26/2000 | Staff
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The fact that companies have amassed so much DNA data on so many people—more than 26 million by recent estimates—has triggered public concern over genetic ownership and privacy. Especially as the lines between these different kinds of testing begin to blur, as in the case of the Golden State Killer. In April 2018, California police arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, accusing him of being the man behind 12 murders and more than 50 rapes that terrorized the state throughout the '70s and '80s. After nearly four decades, the tip that gave police what they believe is the Golden State Killer’s real name wasn’t a stakeout or fingerprints or cell phone records. It was a genealogy website.

Ever since companies like 23andMe and Ancestry have been offering DNA test kits that tell people what regions of the world their great-great-great relatives hail from, hobby genealogists have been building tools to make it easier to turn that DNA data into family trees. A public website called GEDMatch is one such tool. Law enforcement agencies realized it could also be a powerful tool for solving crimes.

DNA - Tests - Line - STRs - Regions

Traditional forensic DNA tests, as you’ll remember, line up STRs in noncoding regions of the genome to find a match. That kind of data can tell you if two samples came from the same person. What STRs can’t tell you is if a person has green eyes, what their ethnic background is, or who their third cousin might be. Direct-to-consumer tests, on the other hand, do collect that kind of information. And that’s the data that DNA companies and third-party sites like GEDMatch use to build trees of genetically related people. DeAngelo never took a DNA test. But his relatives did. And when they partially matched to samples collected at Golden State Killer crime scenes, police worked with genealogists to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Wired
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