This web page was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College.
A recent article by the BBC highlights the work of researchers conducting a discovery research project where they sequenced the full genomes of over 2,000 Icelanders. This article details how the data were used to to date the last common ancestor of man, but the original article (Gudbjartsson et al.,2015) does not mention this purpose of the study. While it was an interesting article, it did not do the science justice because instead of explaining the significance of the original study, it used the study as a starting point to talk about the popular topics within genomics. The research in the original article, which was linked within the text of the BBC article, was conducted to understand how genomic variation relates to diversity. This purpose was not effectively communicated to general audiences in the BBC article.
Though the BBC article did not specify which sequencing technologies were used in Gudbjartsson et al.'s research, the original journal article notes that the team used Illumina technology, which is the current standard sequencing technology. An interesting commercial effort the news article did describe, however, was deCODE Genetics' work to combine the genome sequence of 10,000 people with nation-wide family trees in hopes of creating a better method for disease prediction. BBC news mentions that the information gathered from the original research by Gudbjartsson et al. and from deCODE Genetics could be analyzed to find common mutations, like BRCA2, and help decrease the risk associated with such genes through preventive mastectomies and ovariectomies. Later in the BBC article, a physician is quoted warning of the potential overuse of genomic data to perform these serious procedures, since certain mutations to BRCA increase risk of cancer much more than others. The original research, however, does not mention anything about the data's potential use for prescribing surgeries to prevent cancer. This shows how original science can be reported in popular sources with conclusions beyond the scope of the original paper's scope.
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