23andMe Posted "The Year in Genetics"

The past year in genetics has held no shortage of surprises. Fossilized bone fragments helped to rewrite parts of the Neanderthal story, including how some bands migrated and lived. A team of researchers in Spain learned the dopplegängers have more in common than meets the eye. The phrase “superdodger: officially entered COVID-19 lexicon. And new analysis confirmed what anyone who’s ever hit a dance floor already knows – the ability to move in time to a beat is partly genetic.

From big discoveries that moved the field forward to work that improved on existing findings, here are some of the year’s milestones.

A Neanderthal family portrait

Deep inside a cave in southern Siberia, a team of researchers discovered the fossilized bone fragments of the first-known Neanderthal family. DNA analysis of these fragments offered rare insights into Neanderthal’s lives – depicting their social structures, migratory patterns, and relationships.

In October of 2022, Nature posted “First known Neanderthal family discovered in Siberian Cave”. For the first time, researchers have identified a set of closely related Neanderthals: a father and his teenage daughter, and two other, more-distant relatives.

The discovery of the family – and seven other individuals (including a pair of possible cousins from another clan) in the same cave, along with two more from a nearby site, represents the largest ever cache of Neanderthal genomes. The findings also suggest that Neanderthal communities were small, and that females routinely left their families to join new groups.

Are you a superdodger?

In 2022, a new term entered the COVID-19 lexicon: superdodger.  A superdoger is someone who appears to have avoided COVID infection despite multiple exposures to variants and waves. 

Scientists were so puzzled by these virus evaders that they began to look for genetic clues. Research out of UCSF revealed a genetic variant called HLA that clears the virus rapidly. “The immune response gets just kind of fired up more quickly,” explained Jill Hollenbach, an immunogenetics at UCSF. “So that you basically nuke the infection before you even start to have symptoms.

More than a look-alike

Your doppelgänger may share more than just your physical characteristics – they may also share similar DNA. Researchers in Spain compared and analyzed the DNA of doppelgängers who had participated in a photography series on lookalikes by Canadian artist François Brunelle. They found that people with very similar faces also shared many of the same genetic variants.

A study was published on Cell titled: “Look-alike humans identified by facial recognition algorithms show genetic similarities”. The study stated that the expansion of the world wide web and the possibility to exchange pictures of humans across the planet has increased the number of people identified online as virtual twins or doubles that are not family related. 

The researchers have characterized the detail in a set of “look-alike” humans, defined by facial recognition algorithms, for their multiomics landscape. We report that these individuals share similar genotypes and differ in their DNA methylation and microbiome landscape. 

Polygenic risk scores go mainstream

Polygenic risk scores, DNA-based tools that enhance 23andMe’s ability to predict the risk of common diseases, made headlines this year. Researchers worldwide developed new scores for common conditions like type 2 diabetes, knee and hip osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, glaucoma and more. Here at 23andMe, researchers developed scores that formed the basis for 12 new reports.

Related Articles on FamilyTree.com:

23andMe Adds Ancestry Composition For People of Ashkenazi Ancestry

Your Neanderthal Ancestors Gave You Allergies

Ancestry Released Update On Their COVID-19 Study

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