Discover your 1,000-year-old ancestors
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 01 May 2014
The ability to trace the geographical origins of a person’s ancestors – right down to the region or village – by analysing their DNA could soon be reality, a scientist has claimed.
Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield said that he has invented a computer “algorithm” that can analyse the variation in a person’s DNA and make accurate predictions about the location in the world where their ancestors had lived up to 1,000 years ago.
The test is based on comparing a person’s DNA with genetic variations of populations known to be linked with specific areas of the world. From this, it is possible to infer a person’s ancestral origins to within a few miles, Dr Elhaik said.
“What we have discovered is a way to find not where you were born... but where your DNA was formed up to 1,000 years ago. We can do this so accurately that we can locate the village where your ancestors lived,” Dr Elhaik said.
The test is based on measuring the degree of genetic “admixture” with a person’s DNA, caused when two previously separated populations begin to interbreed.
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