This is the blog for GW students taking Human Evolutionary Genetics. This site is for posting interesting tidbits on: the patterns and processes of human genetic variation;human origins and migration; molecular adaptations to environment, lifestyle and disease; ancient and forensic DNA analyses; and genealogical reconstructions.

GWHEG figure

GWHEG figure

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

President Obama Announces New "Precision Medicine Initiative"

Last week in his his State of the Union address, President Obama announced a new “Precision Medicine Initiative” that involves tailoring medical treatments to the genetic profiles and other characteristics of individual patients. This initiative is an alternative to the traditional treatment approach, in which physicians typically apply the same treatment protocol to all patients presenting with a certain condition. Through precision medicine (aka “personalized medicine”), health care providers can employ genetic testing to test for biomarkers that will make individuals responsive to certain therapies in order to ensure that money is not wasted on individuals who will not respond or who will have adverse effects. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that shows the application of personalized medicine in patients with melanoma. Last Friday, Medicare released a plan to cover genetic testing in certain patients with advanced lung cancer so that they may benefit from targeted therapies, according to the New York Times. This new initiative is revolutionary because it proves that policy makers now believe these genetic tests are worth the cost.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hellbender CSI

An article by Carl Zimmer in the NYT last week summarizes the prospect of using "environmental DNA" to detect elusive and endangered species.  An exciting recent example, published in Biological Conservation, employed metagenomics of river water to identify/locate Hellbender salamanders-- although they're huge,  they are difficult to observe in the wild and highly endangered. This provides a nice case study of molecular censusing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Profile of Svante Pääbo (and Neanderthals) in Washington Post

The Washington Post provides a nice summary of modern views on Neanderthals (as capable and cultured, rather than brutish) via a mini profile of Svante Paabo. Paabo is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, and his lab has spearheaded research on Neanderthal genetics/genomics. Primary papers discussed include the original Neanderthal genome papers and an article from last year suggesting that admixture might have impacted fertility in males.