Archive for the ‘Genetic Testing’ Category
It’s the caveman in all of us that we can now blame for our uncivilized behavior. It turns out humans did not entirely replace Neanderthals 30,000 years ago. There was an overlap of time and place that carries on the Neanderthal gene in some people today.
Based on DNA fragments taken from recent discoveries of ancient bones, scientists have constructed approximately 60 percent of the Neanderthal genome, drafting the sequence from billions of DNA letters .
They’re comparing it to our human genome sequence and finding some surprising results, such as evidence that at one time, Neanderthals and humans mated.
Thanks in part to advances in DNA science researchers are able for the first time to isolate the genes of ancient ancestors. For example, one of the challenges of this kind of work is separating the Neanderthal DNA from the DNA of other microbes and organisms that settled on the bones during decomposition, organisms such as insects.
Powerful computers compare the fragments of DNA sequencing with those of humans and chimpanzees and then they look at the known sequence of ancient plants and ask if it looks more like a human or more like a fungus that invaded the bone after death.
In the case of this latest discover, scientists completed the genome sequences of five modern day humans for comparison to the Neanderthal. They studied people from China, France, Papua New Guinea and two from Africa. The researchers expected that Neanderthal DNA would be equally distant from everyone, however they were shocked to find concentrations of Neanderthal existing in the non-Africans.
This suggests there was inter-breeding occurring in a previously unknown period after our ancestors left Africa, but before modern humans emerged.
So when someone says you have no manners, blame your rude behavior on the little bit of caveman in all of us, or at least, those of us with ancestors from Europe and Asia.
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Simply put, genetic genealogy is the use of DNA to ascertain a genetic relationship between individuals. The Father of Evolution, Charles Darwin, is also credited with the early study of genetics, before the discovery of microscopic cell part deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.
Darwin’s son George was able to study surnames in Britain and determine the rate of incidence of marriage among people with the same last name. Interestingly, upper-class families were more likely to marry a cousin than the lower classes. In fact, Charles Darwin himself was married to his first cousin Emma Wedgwood.
It wasn’t for another 100 years that major advances would be made along Darwin’s theory and it took an unlikely American running for U.S President to thrust the issue in the public eye.
Barack Obama is reported to have German roots that go back to the 1700s. According to a popular ancestry website, Obama’s great, g, g, g, g, grandfather Johann Conrad Woelflin was born in Besigheim, Germany in January, 1729. He emigrated to America in 1750 and settled in Pennsylvannia under the name of Wolfley.
This is intriguing because the findings follow another report that Obama bears some Irish ancestry. No one who looks at Barack Obama would doubt he is anything but the product of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, but Obama’s family tree is a common one. Many Americans believe they have only a few national strains in their DNA when in fact they have the influence of several countries in their family tree.
When told the charismatic American President was a descendant of Germany, the country responded with cheers. This isn’t the first U.S. President to be so named. Dwight Eisenhower also had German roots.
Dive into your genetic genealogy and prepare yourself for wondrous information about your family you never believed possible.
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Since 1989 researchers have made DNA genetic testing available to ordinary citizens looking to fill in the blanks about their history. Most people simply want information that assists in their search for relatives they don’t know exist, or they wish to know their risk for inherited disorders. However, some individuals are manipulating science to gain an unfair advantage.
What would be the consequence of an overzealous parent using gene therapy to increase speed and agility in an unborn child? A child who could grow up and play team sports? The science is available to create so-called “super teams”, but at what cost? How does a typical team of gifted and athletic children compete against children whose genetic makeup has been altered for them to gain an advantage?
If that sounds too much like science fiction, there’s another more insidious use of DNA testing that undermines American workers. A brand new law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act took effect last month that bars employers from demanding genetic tests or from using a person’s genetic background in promotions or even hiring or firing.
The new law forbids Health Insurance companies and Pre-Paid Health plans from using genetic risk indicators for a family history of stroke, diabetes, cancer or heart disease to deny coverage or to increase premiums and deductibles. Simply put, the Act prohibits employers or insurers from asking for genetic information.
There is also the question of whether or not we should submit to DNA testing for our own information. Recently scientists discovered a variant of a gene called apolipoprotein E which they believe is a strong indicator of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Would you care to know if you have it? Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, most doctors advise against the test. Personally I think that I would want to know it and perhaps might seek be more cautious of early warning signals and it would help with plans for elder care.
These are some of the ethical questions to consider in the otherwise exciting world of DNA genetic testing. One new report in Science Daily released recently concerns testing for African and African-American genetics. We find it interesting.
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