03.10.2022

Geneticists compete with genealogists; dna analyses are in vogue

In the past, if someone wanted to know more about his or her ancestors, he or she went to a historically educated genealogist. Today, however, interested people make a pilgrimage to the genetics expert. Genetic analysis can make family relationships transparent, some researchers promise.

The seven daughter evas

The most promising project from a marketing point of view was initiated by bryan sykes, a geneticist at oxford university. With the romantic formula "seven daughters of eve" he has already coded numerous people and, through his company oxford ancestors, has helped them to find their respective family tree by means of dna analysis "primal mother".

The scientific background of his work is not unusual for a geneticist. In investigations lasting for years sykes evaluated the hereditary property of some thousand europeans. The researcher finally came to the conclusion that the hereditary material can be divided into seven groups on the basis of the sequence of dna building blocks. 99% of all europeans are descended from seven women, sums up the specialist in genetic relationship research. So that the whole does not sound too theoretical, sykes gave flowery names to the women. Since then, our past has been called tara, helena, katrine, ursula, valda, xenia or jasmine.

Those who think that sykes is a charlatan are mistaken. He enjoys a good reputation among experts, after all he works at the renowned institute of molecular medicine in oxford and was also part of the research team that was to analyze the genome of the ice man otzi. Public criticism of his project will therefore hardly be heard.

In any case, no one can accuse him of a lack of business acumen. On its own home page, it boasts of being the first organization in the world to offer a dna-based service in genealogy. Interested parties can fill in an order form. They are then sent special tubes and spatulas with which they can scrape cells from the roof of their mouths. The maternal line is examined by analysis of mitochondrial dna. The genetic material it contains is normally only passed on from mother to child. However, this method could not be infallible. Because there are still too many unexplored areas in genetic engineering, especially mutations. In any case, for about 120 pounds oxford ancestors sends back an analysis with the name of the ancestral mother.

Other scholars take a more differentiated approach to the ie. At howard university in washington, which prides itself on the high proportion of african-americans among its students, researchers worked with genetic comparative material from africa. Matthew george, one of the geneticists, told the following story in an interview: in the course of the experiments, they also tested their own dna. A colleague of african-american descent had genetic material very similar to that of people from benin. Matthew george reports that his colleague danced around and shouted, "i’m not going to play it "oh i’m from benin, i’m from benin". To which george replied: "no, you’re from plains, georgia. But your mitochondrial dna comes from benin." this little anecdote can be found in an essay published in a journal edited by mit staff, whose author points out in a very reflective way the possibilities of genetics, but also the danger of a burgeoning, pseudo-scientifically legitimized racism. Such socio-political problems are ignored by researchers like sykes.

The idea of revolutionizing genealogy with genetics obviously overrides all concerns. For example, according to a report in die welt, the head of the american company sorenson bioscience is planning a mass screening to advance family research using genetic analysis. 100,000 volunteers to provide their genetic fingerprints. The project "dna genealogy" foresees, "that americans whose ancestors come from random places in europe will compare their dna with volunteers from ‘long-established’ families of those places", reports that "world". Like sykes, james l. Sorenson not a no-name in genetic research. After all, the american is involved in the worldwide "human genome project" involved in the deconstruction of the human genome. For his genealogy project, he was able to enlist the services of microbiologist professor scott woodward. For the estimated cost of ten, "possibly even 100 million dollars" but private sponsors must be found first.

But if you really want to know more about your ancestors, you might want to go back to the old-fashioned genealogists who leaf through dusty books and examine historical documents. One of the most extensive data collections is now even partially digitized. Millions of personal data can be retrieved from the mormon center in salt lake city. A rearing detail on the side: no one has to hand over his genetic fingerprint to a researcher and his database.

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