January 2013

Scientists at University College Dublin Develop Ancestry Mapper Tool

Fri, 25 January 13 09:00

Scientists at University College Dublin have developed a computational tool, known as Ancestry Mapper, which provides new insight into individuals’ ancestral origin. This new system is capable of indicating not just the geographical region to which an individual is most closely aligned ancestrally, but also the extent to which other populations feature in a person’s genetic make-up.

Ancestry Mapper improves on previous mathematical separation techniques by providing intrinsic information about the relationships between local and global populations.

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Image: The GIF above shows the global expansion and genetic diversification of mankind.

The researchers, led by Dr Sean Ennis of UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, analysed the genetic code of 1000 people and mapped their genetic characteristics against 51 pre-defined regional populations. The results acts as a ‘DNA GPS’ and show in percentage terms the relationship between the individual and each of the test populations.

Dr Sean Ennis said:

The human genome project has created an explosion of data for researchers – the challenge for us is to develop methods by which we can interrogate that data. Ancestry Mapper provides a richness of information that was not previously available.

It has been possible for some time to map an individual to a broad ancestral point on the map, but this new method connects the individual to multiple regional points, each of which can be described in percentage terms as having influenced to a greater or lesser extent the individual genetic make-up.

The first author on the paper, Dr Tiago Magalhaes of UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science said:

The role of ancestry has become central to many scientific fields. We carried out this work because in medical genetic research, the ability to know a person’s ancestry is very useful when we are looking at susceptibility to disease. However, the work has wider implications for areas such anthropology, history and archaeology and forensic science.

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