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New Scientific Method Pinpoints One’s Origin

  • VOA News

FILE - The 46 human chromosomes, where DNA resides and does its work.

FILE - The 46 human chromosomes, where DNA resides and does its work.

Where do I come from?

Sooner or later this question pops up in almost everybody’s mind. For some families, written records can trace the path their ancestors took from their original homes, generations or even centuries ago. For others, there's modern bio-geographical sequencing. Using an individual’s genetic data, it has accuracy of about 700 kilometers in Europe, but much lower in other parts of the world.

British and U.S. scientists have developed a new algorithm for analyzing DNA, called Geographic Population Structure or GPS. They say GPS can locate the village or tribe where the gene pools that created someone's DNA were last mixed. That could have happened as long as a thousand years ago, during migrations or invasions, when people from previously separated populations started to interbreed.

To demonstrate the accuracy of their algorithm, scientists analyzed genetic data of 200 inhabitants from 10 villages in Sardinia. GPS correctly placed a quarter of them directly in their village and most of the remaining individuals within 50 kilometers of their village. Similar results were obtained from a test covering more than 20 islands in Oceania. Overall, the new method achieved accuracy of 98 percent.

In addition to helping people curious to find their roots, the researchers say the new method may have important medical implications, as knowing one's genetic profile may indicate vulnerability to hereditary diseases and conditions.

The report, prepared jointly by researchers from the University of Sheffield, and the University of Shoutern California, was published in the journal Nature Communications.