Listen: Dennis Mcniven, University Of Queensland, Andrew Crowd discussed on Science Friction
"This is an ABC podcast. It's an existential question about the importance that we give to our DNA. And it made me think that maybe that's become the sole. Now, you know, maybe maybe that's what people consider to be this all why that all cultures have have some kind of he might sign. Nasa. Cystic need to have something special about them that might be assault or something else. But but deny I think is a human almost as huge fat that special function in society. But he's your DNA your own high an attention mature with you for science, friction culture and science with extra spice grad to have your ease. What if you go to call out of the from person in blue the police detective is calling from afar flung country to sign that someone who might be related to you has committed a horrifying crime. Right. A mood. It happened decades ago, and the relative isn't someone you've heard of autho not your sister. Or your ankle looks like the probably a food or even a fourth cousin. So why is the detective contacting you? When you send a cheek swab to one of those commercial ancestry companies to find out about your heritage. And perhaps you've done that who gets access to that data. That's the question I'm asking by with assist. Andrew crowd and associate professor in philosophy at the university of Queensland, Dr ivine mcnerney, Leo who's genetics counselor geneticist and NHL MAC fellow at the university of Queensland and Dennis mcniven. Who's professor of forensic genetics at the university of technology, Sydney. They all joined me at the world science festival in Brisbane recently. So have you would use in your DNA to an ancestry service? His Andrew think are would. But it would prob may be would depend on the consent process. That was connected to doing that this. But yeah, it's intuitively appealing to know about ones end ancestry. So yes, I think I would you haven't done it yet. And did you get some surprises? Did you read the consent form right down to the live very bottom of the fine print, dude and then highlighted and Endel took humor. Search these comedian go to. Unlike everyone else, I just I read it didn't read the fine Dato probably. And did you get some surprises? Not I think so you knew who you were already. I think. So why did I do it? I actually did it to experience the process, and I didn't have the the reticence some people might have to doing that. And the good reasons why you need to be a little bit careful when you do that, particularly if you think about twenty three and me, for example, at giving access to a fairly major drug company to say to me are genetic online testing company, you can send over swab to them, and they'll send you back some data. Woo. Tribu send it away well in the states guide access to to some of that Dina they said they did it with consent. But that may well have been a line in in that consent for we'll come back today. Because interesting to know, why FIS would be interested in my my genetic data as a big pharmaceutical company that makes Viagra, but will in the states, of course in a strategy. You get well, you can get hill through results back, but you're already made to get ancestry results in key entry. We place so much potent meaning in genetics. Now, don't we more? So than other information, we might reveal about what's special about this data. I think we do I think people feel their DNA is what they are certainly getting DNA ancestry picture or health profile in certain situations. We'd been incredibly useful thing with correct counseling and. Correct analysis and expertise to work at the probabilities, and even then even the experts struggle at the ages, but people are not just deny. There's other things that are important are people's identity beyond this people calling at the moment for to the to be a test. Is this controversial attests the strategy for people's aboriginality? Now that is that was on a very particular millionaire takes at the moment. It's that kind of parallel to I guess an idea. We are DNA and that you can actually densify what their person is an indigenous Australian, for example by doing a DNA test. Now, that's been universally rejected by a lot of scientists in this country, certainly rejected by indigenous people, but they're politicians in this country politicians sitting in pilot calling out for something like that which influences the media, and that's what people would call like a deterministic view about DNA. The fact is that people are more than they deny sample. They even biologically much more than that. These are these epigenetics and all this other scientific stuff, the people this environment and experience that that influence who we are this sort of genetics and influences genetics. Is. Inch influence who we are as an expression people's connection to land to culture, wherever we're from in the world is really significance that sense of place where people are from as well as environment. So I think we bit over the top with deny. But it is certainly a very very interesting thing to think about what about you your genetic counselor. You'll get home cently navigating the intricacies of the data that people grapple with when they get a genetic test. I've got a gene decision. Do they make did I tell their siblings who do they tell him families? If something big is in there genetic genome sequence would you do it? Have you done it a genetic test for history purposes? Order send it off to look at your disease risk. I have not done it. Irish. So I think I'm probably fairly boring in the ancestry scheme of things. So I imagine that report wouldn't be particularly diverse, but the genetic I have concerns about what happens to the data. You do have the option Ciaran medically of spitting in the tube sending it off. And and then telling them that you want them to destroy your sample. And that you want them to destroy your data once that's done, but you pretty much need a PHD in IT to be able to figure out all the options of how to do that. So I have concerns about what to trust is trust in the data and trust is such a big part of this conversation, isn't it? Absolutely. And I think the the other thing is the health data that comes out of it. You know, what's what's the quality of it? What's the positive predictive value of it? I'm kind of person where if you tell me I have an eight percent risk of heart disease to begin with. And then I go to a ten percent miss of heart disease. That's not going to make a huge difference to me. A person I could difference to some people, but it might make a difference to some people. So that so I'm used to clinical genetic tests, which are very definitive and have a strong predictive value, and I put a lot of weight and store in those. But these kind of. Variation tests that can change over time depending on how large a population they're using. I find less convincing mortar talk about their Dennis. What about you? Would you? Do it. Have you done it? Yes, I have. So I've submitted my at my DNA to two companies, but I have to admit those vested interests because I offer a genetic ancestry service to police. So I wanted to see how did our product stack up against the competition. Lo and behold, we've got Dennis's. Is one of the company's head to reveal to you just happen to have it lying around. So as you can see my ancestry is probably much the signs ID's Anglo. Celtic nine percent point ninety nine point nine percent. European right down two point two percent sets her and African that's right now those small numbers, I'm not. So sure about some rule of thumb when I look at the genetic ancestry results is anything less than ten percent with a grain of salt because you've got to remember that these that predict your ancestors, they compare your DNA to reference populations that are being collected over many years. So you predictions only going to be as good as the library of of reference populations that you compare it again. So. Wouldn't we all have a percentage sub Saharan Africa by virtue of the fact that we're all Scythians? We do our ancestors. We it's pretty well accepted now that Iran sisters work all walked out of Africa one hundred and fifty thousand years ago, but that's probably too far back. That's why to fall back for us to be able to see that. Now genomes so can really only see back a few generations. Because after that, the DNA becomes diluted to an extent that you just can't see it. So it's really only two or three generations that we're going to see these ancestry tests. So these tests is that you're seventy three percent Irish Scottish world twenty-seven percent gripe Britain, and then it goes down into the migrations from monster island, etc. Were again, I mean that sort of resolution I think is probably a little optimistic. I'm not sure that the test of that good to be able to say. Exactly we'll village you came from. But. Skits interesting into monster. Apparently, we didn't go walkabout a lot in Munster from Munster. We didn't go look a lot. So actually, you get a lot of diversity in the east coast of Arlon because a lot of inferences. And then it gets a lot more this diverse, which I'm not sure as a good thing too. Interesting to thin your work in the forensic sphere. Is revealing some interesting opportunities that forensic investigators announ accessing some of those databases. Interesting wise before we hit to that explain to us how the forensic use of DNA evidence has changed as the technology has changed. So we're if we come from, and where have we come to how useful is DNA evidence. Now is a really big shift so dinner profiling began in the in the eighties called Alec Jeffreys who found out that is beats of deny that are very different between us, and they're the beats that are important for dente fine people. Because if if you're only looking at the United society is going to tell us what the it's an individual or different individual, whether you committed the crime or idea. Yeah. That's I'm sure it was you."