Ground-breaking technique traces DNA

Ground-breaking technique traces DNA direct to your ancestor’s home 1,000 years ago

Tracing where your DNA was formed over 1,000 years ago is now possible, thanks to a revolutionary technique. The ground-breaking Geographic Population Structure tool works similarly to a satellite navigation system as it helps you to find your way home, but not the one you currently live in — but rather your actual ancestor’s home from 1,000 years ago.

Tracing where your DNA was formed over 1,000 years ago is now possible, thanks to a revolutionary technique developed by a team of international scientists led by experts from the University of Sheffield.

The ground-breaking Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool, created by Dr Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences and Dr Tatiana Tatarinova from the University of Southern California, works similarly to a satellite navigation system as it helps you to find your way home, but not the one you currently live in — but rather your actual ancestor’s home from 1,000 years ago.

Previously, scientists have only been able to locate where your DNA was formed to within 700kms, which in Europe could be two countries away; however this pioneering technique has been 98 per cent successful in locating worldwide populations to their right geographic regions, and down to their village and island of origin.

The breakthrough of knowing where the gene pools that created your DNA were last mixed has massive implications for life-saving personalised medicine, advancing forensic science and for the study of populations whose ancestral origins are under debate, such as African Americans, Roma gypsies and European Jews.

Genetic admixture occurs when individuals from two or more previously separated populations begin interbreeding. This results in the creation of new gene pools representing a mixture of the founder gene pool.

Such processes are extremely common in history during migrations and invasions, for example, when the Vikings invaded Britain and Europe in the 11th Century and settled with locals some of them formed a new Viking-Anglo-Saxon gene pool, but some married other Vikings and maintained their original gene pool, allowing GPS to trace their Scandinavian origins.

Dr Eran Elhaik said: “If we think of our world as being made up of different colours of soup — representing different populations — it is easy to visualise how genetic admixture occurs. If a population from the blue soup region mixes with a population from the red soup region their off-springs would appear as a purple soup.

“The more genetic admixture that takes place, the more different colours of soup are introduced which makes it increasingly difficult to locate your DNA’s ancestry using traditional tools like Spatial Ancestry analysis (SPA) which has an accuracy level of less than two per cent.”

He added: “What we have discovered here at the University of Sheffield is a way to find not where you were born — as you have that information on your passport — but where your DNA was formed up to 1,000 years ago by modelling these admixture processes.

“What is remarkable is that, we can do this so accurately that we can locate the village where your ancestors lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago — until now this has never been possible.”

Continue to read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430192745.htm

University of Sheffield. “Ground-breaking technique traces DNA direct to your ancestor’s home 1,000 years ago.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2014. .