Suppose your cousin leaves DNA evidence at a crime scene… and then police arrive at your door, because your DNA is similar to your cousin’s, and police found your DNA in a genealogical database. Does that seem like a good thing to you, or something from dystopian fiction?
It was a high-profile crime in New York City—a jogger was murdered while running in a local park, and detectives had few leads. As the months passed and the crime remained unsolved, the victim’s family began pushing for wider use of familial DNA, or searching DNA databases for partial matches to DNA evidence that might represent a family member of the killer (the technique has been successfully used). Detectives eventually identified a suspect without it, but the idea of familial DNA testing is not going away. [continue]
If you have your DNA tested for genetic concerns, should the results be private? Or should you be forced to share that information with insurance companies and your employer? That issue is in the news this week. The USA moved in one direction (Guess what they decided – I know you can!) and Canada did the opposite.
Over the objection of their own government, dozens of Liberal backbenchers voted Wednesday night in favour of a bill banning genetic discrimination.
In voting for what is known as Bill S-201, the backbench Liberals, along with all Conservative, NDP and Green Party MPs made it a crime for, among other things, insurance companies to demand potential customers provide a DNA test in order to get a policy. Additionally, no company will be able to deny someone a job if they fail to have their genes tested.
Protection from discrimination because of an individual’s genetic makeup will now be written into the Canadian Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. [continue]
For societies with writing systems, hereditary leadership is documented as one of the hallmarks of early political complexity and governance. In contrast, it is unknown whether hereditary succession played a role in the early formation of prehistoric complex societies that lacked writing. Here we use an archaeogenomic approach to identify an elite matriline that persisted between 800 and 1130 CE in Chaco Canyon, the centre of an expansive prehistoric complex society in the Southwestern United States. We show that nine individuals buried in an elite crypt at Pueblo Bonito, the largest structure in the canyon, have identical mitochondrial genomes. Analyses of nuclear genome data from six samples with the highest DNA preservation demonstrate mother–daughter and grandmother–grandson relationships, evidence for a multigenerational matrilineal descent group. Together, these results demonstrate the persistence of an elite matriline in Chaco for ∼330 years. [continue]
The Vikings plundered, raided, and eventually reigned over a large part of what is modern day England. But exactly how many Danish Vikings migrated west and settled down in the British Isles?
In 2015, a large DNA study sparked a row between DNA scientists and archaeologists after concluding that the Danish Vikings had a “relatively limited” influence on the British—a direct contradiction to archaeological remains and historical documents.
“We see no clear genetic evidence of the Danish Viking occupation and control of a large part of England,” write DNA scientists in a study published in the scientific journal Nature in 2015.
A new study has reignited the debate by claiming that somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 Vikings relocated to England. [continue]
The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.
Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.
“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.” (…)
I am particulartly interested in this part of the article:
Church, a guest speaker at the meeting, said the mammoth project had two goals: securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant and helping to combat global warming. Woolly mammoths could help prevent tundra permafrost from melting and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
“They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in,” said Church. “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.” [continue]
Inuit who live in Greenland experience average temperatures below freezing for at least half of the year. For those who live in the north, subzero temperatures are normal during the coldest months.
Given these frigid conditions, anthropologists have wondered for decades whether the Inuit in Greenland and other parts of the Arctic have unique biological adaptations that help them tolerate the extreme cold.
A new study, published on Wednesday in Molecular Biology and Evolution, identifies gene variants in Inuit who live in Greenland, which may help them adapt to the cold by promoting heat-generating body fat. These variants possibly originated in the Denisovans, a group of archaic humans who, along with Neanderthals, diverged from modern humans about half a million years ago. [continue]
A new tool called the Geographic Population Structure (GPS), which converts DNA data into its ancestral coordinates, has pinpointed origin of Yiddish speakers, according to a team of researchers led by Dr. Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield, UK. [continue]
The research also sheds light on how modern Europeans came to look the way they do – and that these various traits may originate in different ancient populations. Blue eyes, it suggests, could come from hunter gatherers in Mesolithic Europe (10,000 to 5,000 BC), while other characteristics arrived later with newcomers from the East. [continue]
Scientists are talking for the first time about the old idea of resurrecting extinct species as if this staple of science fiction is a realistic possibility, saying that a living mammoth could perhaps be regenerated for as little as $10 million.
The same technology could be applied to any other extinct species from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA. [continue]
Scientists reported Thursday that as many as 1 in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe may have a Phoenician direct male-line ancestor.
These men were found to retain identifiable genetic signatures from the nearly 1,000 years the Phoenicians were a dominant seafaring commercial power in the Mediterranean basin, until their conquest by Rome in the 2nd century B.C. [continue].
Two Egyptian mummies who died more than 3,500 years ago have provided clear evidence for the earliest known cases of malaria, according to a study presented this week in Naples at an international conference on ancient DNA.
Pathologist Andreas Nerlich and colleagues at the Academic Teaching Hospital München-Bogenhausen in Munich, Germany, studied 91 bone tissue samples from ancient Egyptian mummies and skeletons dating from 3500 to 500 B.C.
Using special techniques from molecular biology, such as DNA amplification and gene sequencing, the researchers identified ancient DNA for the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in tissues from two mummies.
"We now know for sure that malaria was endemic in ancient Egypt. This was only been speculated on the basis reports by [the 5th century B.C.Greek historian] Herodotus and some [continue]
Throughout human history, relatively few men seem to have had a greater input into the gene pool than the rest, suggests a study of variations in DNA.
Tens of thousands of years of polygamy has left a mark on our genomes that is a signature that small numbers of males must have mated with lots of females.
Over time, such a pattern will spawn more genetic differences on the X chromosome than other chromosomes. This is because women have two copies of the X, while men only one. In other words, the diversity arises because some men don’t get to pass on their genes, while most women do. [continue]
…a few years ago, University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins and his students started digging where no one had dug before. What the team discovered in an alcove used as a latrine and trash dump has elevated the caves to the site of the oldest radiocarbon dated human remains in North America.
Coprolites — ancient feces — were found to contain human DNA linked directly to modern-day Native Americans with Asian roots and radiocarbon dated to 14,300 years ago. That’s 1,000 years before the oldest stone points of the Clovis culture, which for much of the 20th century was believed to represent the first people in North America. [continue]
An Israeli city is using DNA analysis of dog droppings to reward and punish pet owners.
Under a six-month trial programme launched this week, the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is asking dog owners to take their animal to a municipal veterinarian, who then swabs its mouth and collects DNA.
The city will use the DNA database it is building to match faeces to a registered dog and identify its owner. [continue]
Sheesh. I’d rather deal with dog poop than Orwellian nonsense. But no matter, because isn’t this a great way to get back at those neighbours one doesn’t like? All one has to do is to steal a little dog poop from the the neighbours’ garbage, and leave that poop in front of the police station. Done!
But of course nobody would ever do that, so the DNA poop-analyis program is foolproof.
Meet Wilma — named for the redheaded Flintstones character — the first model of a Neanderthal based in part on ancient DNA evidence.
Artists and scientists created Wilma (shown in a photo released yesterday) using analysis of DNA from 43,000-year-old bones that had been cannibalized. Announced in October 2007, the findings had suggested that at least some Neanderthals would have had red hair, pale skin, and possibly freckles. [continue, see photo]
The Lichtenstein Cave is a short drive away from Manfred’s village, deep in the Harz mountains.
This is the spot where Manfred’s relatives, dating back 3,000 years, were buried. The cave remained hidden from view until 1980, and it was only later, in 1993, that archaeologists discovered 40 Bronze Age skeletons.
The 3,000-year-old skeletons were in such good condition that anthropologists at the University of Goettingen managed to extract a sample of DNA. That was then matched to two men living nearby: Uwe Lange, a surveyor, and Manfred Huchthausen, a teacher. The two men have now become local celebrities. [continue]
Biologists have constructed a genetic map of Europe showing the degree of relatedness between its various populations.
All the populations are quite similar, but the differences are sufficient that it should be possible to devise a forensic test to tell which country in Europe an individual probably comes from, said Manfred Kayser, a geneticist at the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. [continue]
State crime lab analyst Kathryn Troyer was running tests on Arizona’s DNA database when she stumbled across two felons with remarkably similar genetic profiles.
The men matched at nine of the 13 locations on chromosomes, or loci, commonly used to distinguish people.
The FBI estimated the odds of unrelated people sharing those genetic markers to be as remote as 1 in 113 billion. But the mug shots of the two felons suggested that they were not related: One was black, the other white.
In the years after her 2001 discovery, Troyer found dozens of similar matches — each seeming to defy impossible odds.
As word spread, these findings by a little-known lab worker raised questions about the accuracy of the FBI’s DNA statistics and ignited a legal fight over whether the nation’s genetic databases ought to be opened to wider scrutiny.
The FBI laboratory, which administers the national DNA database system, tried to stop distribution of Troyer’s results and began an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to block similar searches elsewhere, even those ordered by courts, a Times investigation found. [continue]
Although "Viking" literally means "pirate," recent research has indicated that the Vikings were also traders to the fishmongers of Europe. Stereotypically, these Norsemen are usually pictured wearing a horned helmet but in a new study, Jørgen Dissing and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, investigated what went under the helmet; the scientists were able to extract authentic DNA from ancient Viking skeletons, avoiding many of the problems of contamination faced by past researchers.
Analysis of DNA from the remains of ancient humans provides valuable insights into such important questions as the origin of genetic diseases, migration patterns of our forefathers and tribal and [continue]