Using GPS (but not that GPS),
scientists can trace the geographic origins of someone's DNA more precisely than
ever before (Image: Shutterstock)
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new tool was created by Dr. Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield and Dr.
Tatiana Tararinova from the University of Southern California. Whereas previous
methods have only been able to trace the origin of a person’s DNA to within some
700 km (435 miles), the new method can track worldwide populations back to the
islands or villages they descend from, with a 98 percent success rate.
focuses on genetic admixture, a historically common
occurrence in which previously separate populations
begin to interbreed, creating new gene pools in the process. The new tool models
this process by looking at more than 100,000 DNA signatures, known as
ancestry-informative markers (AIMs) that are typical to specific geographical
regions. The GPS tool uses autosomal chromosomes for analysis rather than
mitochondrial or Y chromosomal DNA, as they provide a more balanced picture of
an individual’s genetic makeup.
were surprised by the simplicity and precision of this method," said Dr. Elhaik.
"People in a given geographical area are more likely to have similar genetics.
When they also have genetic traits typically found in other, distant regions,
the geographical origin of those traits is generally the closest location where
those traits can be found.”
the research study, published in Nature Communications, the team was able to
place 25 percent of residents of 10 villages in Sardinia
to their specific villages and the remainder to with 50 km (31 miles).
Additionally, residents of 20 islands in Oceania were
tested, with 90 percent being traced back to their exact island.
breakthrough has significant implications in a number of fields. Being able to
more accurately determine a patient’s ancestry will allow doctors to determine
their susceptibility to certain genetic diseases, tailoring treatment and
diagnostics accordingly. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that
different genotypes may respond differently to certain medical treatments.
new tool also has implications when it comes to the study of the geographical
origin of certain populations, such as the Roma Gypsies or European Jews. In
fact, Dr. Elhaik believes that GPS may significantly alter our perception of
ethnicity. "It is impossible for any of us to tick one box on a form such as
White British or African as we are much [more] complex models with our own
unique identities," he said. "The notion of race is simply not plausible."
of the most interesting aspects of the project is that just about anyone can use
the new tool, providing they've already had their autosomal DNA genotyped by an
external company (something that costs around US$100-200). Once that’s taken
care of, users can upload their DNA data to the website, developed by Dr.
Tatarinova, and use GPS to locate their ancestral home.
the video below for more on the new GPS tool.
Source: Gizmag URL: