January 16, 2010

Anne Wojcickimn

23 and me

1390 Shorebird Way

Mountain View, CA 94043


Dear Anne Wojcicki:

There is some research in genetics I have been hoping for some time that somebody would do.  I am sure it will happen eventually, but I think the matter is pressing for a lot of people.

It turns out that fertility is determined by the kinship of a couple, the kinship of their parents and so forth.  Once inbreeding is escaped, at about second cousin, the number of children a couple will have declines rapidly with decreasing kinship (and then levels off below replacement).  Of course there are other factors, but generally speaking this one dwarfs all others.  Proof and references are on the enclosed 10 minute DVD.  I am hoping that you will take a few minutes and run it.  If you want to read more, there is more evidence and analysis at NoBabies.net where I post things I find relevant, including correspondence such as this.  If that is not enough, or if it is too much, let me know and I can save you some time digging through it.  What I have said is somewhat oversimplified, as indeed is the DVD. 

The relationship between fertility and kinship has been laid out in the Iceland article cited on the DVD.  If a person is contemplating marriage, and that person is interested in having children and safeguarding their fertility, choosing someone with the right degree of kinship is crucial.  But that requires an exhaustive genealogy going back 10 generations.  Not all of us are Icelanders, so we are a bit out of luck there. 

But there is another way.  If you had the entire genome of two people you could, in theory, predict the maximum number of children they could have if married.  Presently that is impractical, but when the day of the thousand dollar genome comes, it will be quite easy.

Until then, there are many people getting married in the hopes of having children and being disappointed.  Mostly they don’t even suspect that kinship is a good thing.  What very much needs to be done is to create an affordable test that can estimate kinship and predict fertility.

I understand that a group at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has posted free software on the internet that permits two genomes to be compared for overlap.  So the proposal is this.  Obtain genomes on couples who have had their children.  Measure the overlap and compare it with the number of children they have had.  One would want to exclude any health problems or any known genetic problems and include couples who had not used birth control extensively.  The effect appears to be exceedingly strong, so a large sample size should not be necessary – on the order of a hundred rather than a thousand, although statistically more is always better. 

Once the relationship is established it should be fairly straightforward to work out what portions of the genome correspond most closely with fertility.  For instance mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA might both be involved.  Then it should be possible to construct an affordable test.

The potential market is, of course, colossal.  If there are 7 billion people living on average 70 years and marrying on average once, then there are 100,000,000 tests to be done annually.  At a thousand dollars a test, a trifle compared with the cost of raising a family, there ought to be plenty of financial reward for the first out of the gate. 

I am hoping you or somebody will do it soon.  Let me know if you have any reaction or if I can be of help in any way. 


M. Linton Herbert
Nobabies.net SilentNursery.com

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