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Biotech Science

Global DNA Project to Study Human Ancestry 325

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the search-for-eden dept.
Steve writes "The National Geographic Society and IBM are teaming up to map the history of human migration using DNA. The Genographic Project aims to collect 100,000 genetic samples which will be used trace the movements of humans out of Africa and around the globe. While the most useful samples will come from indiginous populations, members of the general public will be able to mail in their own DNA on special cheek swabs."
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Global DNA Project to Study Human Ancestry

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  • How many years.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeathFlame (839265) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:05AM (#12223305)
    ...till we make the Kwisatz Haderach?
    • But on a serious note, this sort of thing could happen. Goverments (not nessacarily the US one) could start forcing certain people to breed together based on their DNA and possible genetic combinations that would happen... sort of like 'natural' genetic modifications.
      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:43AM (#12223681) Homepage Journal
        Yes, they could.

        They could also ... hmmm, I don't know, let's see ... on the basis of no actual science whatsoever, based on loony racial theories centered on things like hair color and head shape, decide that some groups are superior and others inferior, and start trying to breed the superior ones to create a race of supermen for world conquest, while putting the inferior ones in death camps. Or they could, based on loony economic theories centered on the writings of long-dead philosophers, decide that all property must be owned and distributed by the state, and kill anyone who disagrees with them. Or ... well, you get the idea. Honestly, on the list of Bad Things To Be Scared Of Governments Doing, abuse of genetic data gathered for an anthropology project is way down on the list.

      • The nation that had the second largest eugenics movement was the United States. Beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics#Eugenics_and _the_state.2C_1890s-1945 [wikipedia.org]
      • But on a serious note, this sort of thing could happen. Goverments (not nessacarily the US one) could start forcing certain people to breed together based on their DNA and possible genetic combinations that would happen... sort of like 'natural' genetic modifications.

        Or alternately, they could encourage people to choose from certain subsets of population as determined on an individual basis. Even an extreme, like arranged marriages, if they are a superset of the personal selection criteria for the indiv

    • To quote Teal'C:

      "Many, many years, O'Neill".

    • The Autarch totally owns the KH.
      Since when could the KH reboot the sun?
      (shoots KH with HK)
  • DNA sample (Score:2, Funny)

    by super_ogg (620337)
    I can see it now, spit in an envelope and sending it to DNA department.
    PS. No horking big lugies.

    ogg
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:07AM (#12223322)
    This is really just an attempt by IBM to prepare a defense against SCO that shows that Wookiees do not, in fact, come from Endor.
  • I wonder... (Score:3, Funny)

    by hcob$ (766699) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:07AM (#12223327)
    if they accecpt other swabbing techniques? The "other" dna sources would probably get a huge male bias to the data though.
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by killtherat (177924)
      I know it's a joke, but it got me thinking about collection techniques, and whether or not it would be best to simply only collect male samples.
      Yes, in our politically correct minds, that sound sexist, but in reality, males have all the genetic information for both genders, they simply only have one copy of the X chromosome. But the statistical information from the male X chromosome should be highly correlated to the female population (every male got his X chromosome from a female, so the statistics in the
  • Interesting (Score:5, Funny)

    by dfn5 (524972) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:08AM (#12223333) Journal
    I can't wait for them to discover that humans started their migration 5,000 years ago when they were chased out of eden by the dinosaurs.


    • > I can't wait for them to discover that humans started their migration 5,000 years ago when they were chased out of eden by the dinosaurs.

      You're on to them! They were going to use the DNA to backtrace the migration and find the flaming sword, which they will sell on ebay for a pretty penny.

      • > I can't wait for them to discover that humans started their migration 5,000 years ago when they were chased out of eden by the dinosaurs.

        You're on to them! They were going to use the DNA to backtrace the migration and find the flaming sword, which they will sell on ebay for a pretty penny.

        Dinosaurs with a flaming sword? Oh man, how did I miss it...those Saturday morning shows were documentaries...

      • They won't find it. Aziraphale "lost" it right about the time we left.
    • by HrothgarReborn (740385) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:24AM (#12223517)
      Quit being silly. We left Eden almost 6,000 years ago. Uneducated clod.
      • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

        by brontus3927 (865730)
        We left Eden almost 6,000 years ago

        If creationist beliefs of the age of the earth are believed (where the 6000 comes from) then that should be over6000 years ago. The ~6000 year number was determined by the ArchBishop Usser in 1664 that the Earth was created on Oct 26, 4004 B.C. at 9:00 am. Which is just short of 6009 years ago. Man was created on Nov 1, 4004 BC and woman two days later on Nov 3, 4004 BC. So on Nov 4, the serpent tricked Eve into eating fruit from the tree of knowledge, and Adam &

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yahoo.cEINSTEINom minus physicist> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:08AM (#12223334) Homepage Journal
    Is to compare the results with Oxford Ancestors [oxfordancestors.com], who perform a very similar service and have done for some years now. OA claim to be able to pinpoint a region from which you are ultimately descended on the female line, and to make a good guess of the same on the male line.


    If OA's regions flat-out contradict NG's, then one or both sets of data must be wrong. A fatal flaw exists in an assumption that has been made. Which would be valuable to know, from a scientific standpoint, even if it would hurt sales.


    If the two agree, it isn't proof that they are accurate, but provided the work was independently carried out, it raises the chances that they really are onto something.

    • From looking briefly at the Oxford Ancestors site it looks like they and the Genographic Project use the same basic technology and methodology. Oxford appears to be more focused on European genealogy while the Genographic Project has a more worldly focus. They both believe in the same finding we're descended from a man who lived in Africa 60,000 - 80,000 years ago.

      My guess is that they'll have the same conclusions. Oxford Ancestors will probably be assisting in the project.

      By the way, Spencer Wells, head
    • There is nothing wrong with the conclusions contradicting eachother. These studies trace the migration of single loci, not entire critters. Loci don't move exactly like critters do; they are fluctuating in frequency and bottlenecking and doing a whole bunch of other fun stuff under the radar. Just because we have a mitochondrial eve and a Y chrome Adam does not at all mean these two mated with eachother. It just means that all other versions of those genes that didn't descend from these two were since snuff
  • Is it worth $100.00? (Score:5, Informative)

    by unk1911 (250141) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:10AM (#12223351) Homepage
    While the most useful samples will come from indiginous populations, members of the general public will be able to mail in their own DNA on special cheek swabs. for only $100.00 plus ship/handling"

    --
    http://unk1911.blogspot.com [blogspot.com]
    • by twiddlingbits (707452) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:22AM (#12223483)
      $100 bucks? You gotta be kidding. I can have my dog DNA typed (same process) for only about $60 and if it is a rarer breed for FREE. And the same kind of historical genetic analysis is going on with the Canine Genome. The process of DNA typing is the same for any animal, so why do hoo-mans cost more than K-9s? Sounds like a nice revenue source for someone. With some research and some dicussion with your relatives you can trace your roots back pretty darn far. I mean who cares that your 1,000 times great grandparents were from some part of Africa? What value does this information add to society?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:58AM (#12223881)
        Well, sir... the ancestral variation in the dog genome (partly since it is the result of centuries of artificial selection) is less than that in the human genome => fewer sites needed => cheaper. There is also an economy of scale, as I believe all AKC members are required to do this testing. BTW, the fact that the rarer breeds are done for "free" should indicate to you that this cost is being subsidized, perhaps by your AKC membership fees or someone else's (hint: nothing is really free).

        As far as "talking with your relatives", you might keep in mind that a lot of people aren't lucky enough to have living ones / know who they are. At any rate, no one is being forced to take this test.
        The benefit to society of tracking ancestral DNA is partly from these genealogical projects (who are you to say that orphans don't deserve to know why they have dark skin) and partly in setting up an ancestry-sensitive statistical "baseline" for other research. For a simple example, suppose that you're looking for the genes that cause sickle-cell anemia. If you do this without any ancestral knowledge at all, you're going to get thousands of false positives simply because sickle-cell anemia is correlated to African descent and African-descendants have different genetic frequency EVERYWHERE on the genome. A lot of this genetic variation is non-selective "drift" between population and should be ignored if you're looking for coding (or "metacoding") sequences.

        Before projects like this, the only reliable way to compensate for that bias was to do tedious pedigree studies (i.e. find families wherein, up to 2-3 generations back, some members had sickle-cell and some verifiably didn't). Novel statistical methods can take into account the ancestral correlation in ANY samples whatsoever, thus magnifying the power of disease-assays by 1000-fold in some practical cases.

        I'd say that that has "value to society" insofar as anything in biotech does. There are also some applications of these ancestry-sensitive approaches in forensics/law (yes, for both the prosecution and the defense - imho, it's a pretty neutral technology which makes for better information in court all around - the dystopian "GATTACA" stuff is still sci-fi).

        If you have any further questions, post in reply. I do this stuff for a living, though it's a little hard to explain well in a /. comment.
  • This sounds like a really good idea. People who volunteer even get an anonymous password to the website to see how their ancestors migrated to their current location. Too bad they will be testing only indigenous peoples. European-based mutts such as myself don't get to participate.
  • Warning! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:11AM (#12223365)
    These cheek swabs are not oral! You have been warned.
  • Interesting stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ites (600337) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:12AM (#12223371) Journal
    Forget all the "big brother" comments.

    There have been some studies of human DNA and these have often produced very interesting results, showing accurately how people migrated across the globe.

    The problem up to now is that these have been relatively small studies confined to specific issues - such as the colonisation of the Pacific islands, which happened from Indonesia, not South America (sorry, Thor).

    A large-scale analysis of human DNA that includes Africa - the richest mix of DNA by far - will be very, very interesting.

    For example, there are theories that modern Africans are largely descended from relatively recent immigrants from the Indian Ocean basin who recolonised from the East coast and mixed with aboriginal Africans - such as the Khoi and San - eventually pushing these into the margins.

    Good stuff.
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:13AM (#12223381) Homepage Journal

    The African exodus I think is pretty well understood. Although, there seems to have been multiple exodi (?) of hominid species that did not survive in the long term (such as the Neanderthal in Europe).

    From what I understand, the story gets harder to piece together in the last part of the European migrations from Central Asia.

    A couple of interesting TV shows on this were The Real Eve [discovery.com] (which does the mitochondrial trace through maternal ancestral lines), and Journey of Man [nationalgeographic.com], which relates to the more difficult task of tracing mutations in the Y chromosome handed done through paternal lines.

    One of the earlier pioneers in the field, Brian Sykes of Oxford, started up a side business [google.com] where you can send swabs to obtain information about maternal and paternal markers in your genetic makeup (IIRC, about US$225).

    A few years ago I got the analysis done and sent the results back to Ma 'n Pa for Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts.

    • A few years ago I got the analysis done and sent the results back to Ma 'n Pa for Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts.

      ...when it turned out your paternal line came from the mailman? ;)

      • by radtea (464814)
        You laugh, but it's fairly well-established that ~10% of babies are fathered by someone other than their mother's socially pair-bonded mate.

        Here is an extensive summary of studies. [childsuppo...ysis.co.uk] As the summary suggests, rates of misattributed paternity vary widely, from about 1% in some areas to over 20% in others, mostly depending on social/economic status. However, the fact is, most of us are almost certain to have some interlopers in our heritage--we are all mongrels under the skin!

        --Tom
        • You laugh, but it's fairly well-established that ~10% of babies are fathered by someone other than their mother's socially pair-bonded mate.

          Reminds me of "Don't be a Menace to South Central..." where some old man is hassling a kid, and the kid says "You aren't my daddy!....Are you?"

          :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:15AM (#12223409)
    I'd like too see their reaction if someone sent them the DNA of a chimpanzee... Given the similarity between the two DNAs, it might take them them a while to figure that one out...
  • "While the most useful samples will come from indiginous populations, members of the general public will be able to mail in their own DNA on special cheek swabs."

    So, they want people who immigrated a long time ago, and are not really interested in newer immigration? Because ancestrial migration doesn't count unless your the first to get there? This makes absolutly no sense what so ever.
  • Let's cast asside the paranoia for a moment and glance at the liklihood that they will be able to build some amount of evidence to prove what they are setting out to prove. The world has become much smaller in the last couple of hundred years. People are less often living in their ancestoral regions and it's becoming more and more obfustated by the second.

    And I suppose we should pretty much exclude all but "native americans" from any studies related to the new world. (The Americas) I think this study w
  • Our Complex History (Score:5, Interesting)

    by J05H (5625) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:19AM (#12223455) Homepage
    This is an interesting project, it will help to fill in the holes in the knowledge of our origins. Most cultures have legends of the journeys that led to settling a new home, with this research we will see much more clearly who went where,

    Here is the map I want to see more fully realized:

    http://www.mitomap.org/WorldMigrations.pdf

    There are interesting legends and recent research that Genographic project might help: were there Austronesian ("aborigine") migrations across the Pacific 40,000 years ago? Are modern Tibetans and Athapaskan speakers (Navaho) related through the so-called Amur River Culture? When and how often have the "X" haplogroups travelled to America, and were these only Neolithic migrations or did they occur throughout the Bronze and Iron ages? Finally, how much back-migration occured from the Americas to the Old World continents? I'm not the one to research it, but a correlation between Am-Indian oral lore and this geno-map could make for an interesting thesis.

    My guess is that the project will show far more migration than previously expected - humans are nothing if not mobile.

    josh

  • ... from platform to platform.

    But I can't see why the National Geographic cares.

  • by lovebyte (81275) <.lovebyte2000. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:21AM (#12223473) Homepage
    Just a thought: Linking this DNA study to studies in historical linguistics could give interesting results. There must be some correlation between people's DNA and the language they use.
  • by sellin'papes (875203) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:23AM (#12223505) Homepage
    I think some of the most interesting data will come out of studying migration of peoples into the americas.

    It is generally agreed that the first humans arrived in the americas around 25-30,000 years ago but their migration from that point on is a mystery.

    One belief is that they migrated south through a northern passage as the polar ice-caps melted. Another is that they migrated down the west coast from the north pole to south America befoer the ice-caps melted. There is a third (more controversial) theory that they migrated by boat from africa and then moved north up the continent.

    It will be interesting to see what conclusions are drawn.

  • /. editor glitch (Score:2, Informative)

    by Chris Kamel (813292)
    will come from indigenous populations
  • by Anonymous Coward
    public will be able to mail in their own DNA on special cheek swabs.

    If crumpled up tissues count as these cheeked swabs then I can meet their 100,000 quota by tonight.

    Don't worry, I wont have to change any of my usual plans.
  • Other research (Score:5, Informative)

    by kbahey (102895) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:27AM (#12223543) Homepage

    Some research on this was done before.

    There was also this fellow, British I think, who did a documentary about early human migration using genetics, he was on TV (PBS?) a few years back. Nice work. He showed that there were two waves out of Africa. One hugged the coastline reaching India then all the way to Australia, and another going to central Asia, then staying there for a while, and then a branch going west to Europe, and another going east to Siberia, Beringia, and eventually to the Americans. Can't remember his name. Rats!

    Some other resources:

    Scientists trace human migration using DNA [sciencedaily.com].

    Wikipedia article on Human migration [wikipedia.org].

    Stephen Oppenheimer [bradshawfoundation.com] did a genetic map [bradshawfoundation.com].

    Kurgan Genetics [wikipedia.org].

    Neanderthaals and mtDNA [pbs.org]

  • What's indigenous? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Silver Sloth (770927) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:29AM (#12223565)

    At the end of the day, unless you live in central Africa, and possibly not then, no one is truly indegenous. We're all immigrants at some point or another.

    OK, I know I'm nitpicking. As far as the spread of mankind etc. then the first arrivals are the indigenous population. Here in the west of Europe peoples have been coming ad going for several thousend years. Exactly who's indigenous is very complex.

    • At the end of the day, unless you live in central Africa, and possibly not then, no one is truly indegenous. We're all immigrants at some point or another.

      Hence the point of tracing the comings and goings with DNA.
      I'd guess "indigenous" means "grandma can't remember any mention of immigrating" or something like it. As opposed to "I remember the old country..."
  • by daperdan (446613) * on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:30AM (#12223571)
    Isn't it amazing that we can convict a suspect of murder with a 99.99% certainty using DNA evidence but the religious reject it if it goes against their beliefs.

    The best case of DNA invalidating a religion is Mormonism. The founder of Mormonism claimed to have translated a book that was written by a people that migrated from the Middle East to the American continent. He claimed that these immigrants were the "priciple ancestors" of the modern day American Indian.

    Well it turns out that DNA proves what science has been saying for years. The American Indian is of Asiatic decent. Any other examples of DNA destroying a religion?
  • So, how many out there think this is a government funded plot to genetically tag everyone on the planet, starting with a very innocent looking 100k?

    Prepare to superglue foil inside you entire mouth. You know, just in case of some forced swab penetration.
  • dangerous (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by thomasa (17495)
    This dangerous research is bad. We all came from Eve and Adam 5000 years ago. Why do we need to do this?

    On a more serious note (in case you did not guess the above was a joke), I always thought that historical
    linguistics could provide the same answers.
  • We all came from Africa, it's just a matter of when .....
  • by Exter-C (310390)
    And then there was the subpoena that forced the project to hand over all records because of a "thread to national security" all of a sudden we are back to 1939 because my 448th cousin has decided to go and blow himself up in a shopping centre.

    Sounds really good!.. cant wait to join.. just like i cant wait to join some mercenary force in africa run by a bunch of stupid british people!.
  • by gentlemen_loser (817960) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:50AM (#12223754) Homepage
    There are TWO models detailing the origins of our species. One model is the Out-of-Africa model. This effectively states that Homo sapiens left africa and COMPLETELY replaced Home Erectus (found in China) and Homo sapiens neandertalensis in Europe with little to no inter-breeding. This is the current "popular" theory.

    However, there is another model called the multi-regional model that states Homo sapiens evolved sperately on each of the different continents. How could this happen you say? Because enough interbreeding went on to maintain species integrity. Proponents of the Out-of-Africa model tend to ignore fossil evidence from Dali China that shows a skull exhibiting charateristics closer to H. sapiens than H. erectus - pre-dating the earliest evidence from Africa. Or other evidence such as a blending of charateristics in the middle east (mix of Neanderthal/H. Sapiens): EXACTLY where you would expect to find that sort of thing.

    Check out the following link: http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2005/02/more-on-multi regional-model.html [blogspot.com]

    Or google: Milford Wolpoff http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Milford+Wolpo ff [google.com]

    The Out-of-Africanists are force fitting a theory on the existing data. Something they are able to get away with because the current "most popular" scientists (D. Johanson, Leekey) push it. Its unfortunate that politics has worked its way into science.

    Remember, you only find what you are looking for.
    • by radtea (464814)
      However, there is another model called the multi-regional model that states Homo sapiens evolved sperately on each of the different continents. How could this happen you say? Because enough interbreeding went on to maintain species integrity. (emphasis added)

      If populations are interbreeding sufficiently to maintain genetic homogeneity then they were not separate in the relevant sense, and cannot be characterized as evolving separately. "Evolving simultaneously as one large, well-connected, interbreeding p
  • If you look at their map [bbc.co.uk] it says:
    • Map shows first migratory routes taken by humans, based on surveys of different types of the male Y chromosome. "Adam" represents the common ancestor from which all Y chromosomes descended
    • Research based on DNA testing of 100,000 people from indigenous populations around the world Source: The Genographic Project

    So it is obvious they are publishing a map based on the data they claim they "will" gather. From the first paragraph of the article:

    The Genographic Projec

  • I can't wait to see idiot racists get pissed when they find out great-great-great-great-great-great-grandma was asian, african or even GASP semite. As much as people don't want to know... the truth needs to be told, we're all mutts. There is no "master race".
  • already been done (Score:2, Informative)

    This has already been done/started years ago. http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=human+genome+d iversity+project [google.ca]
  • take a look at this photo of [tripod.com] the eastern australian aborignes (now wiped out). They were descendants of the Murrayian aborignes. Some say they were part homo erectus. You can still see some aspects of the murrayians in some aborgines today. They may have mixed with erectus on the way down to Australia.

    BTW, most aborigines has visual cortexes that are 25% larger than other humans.
    • First of all, your link is broken.

      Secondly, talk of aborigenese being... less human than the rest of humanity is... icky, at best. Google for "Truganini", see the kind of things people have done with the excuse of racial superiority (hint: genocide).

      Some say they were part homo erectus.

      Yeah, er, we're all part homo erectus... on account of descending from them.
      • The link works fine for me. Play with it some.

        As for the rest of your politically correct() routine, skip it. I ain't white. That threw a wrench into your little program, didn't it? Throw an exception?

        Get back to me when you have read a few hundred books, and maybe we can talk then....
        • Get back to me when you have read a few hundred books, and maybe we can talk then....

          Way ahead of you.

          The link works fine for me. Play with it some.

          Sigh, it's hosted on tripod, if someone clicks your link, they get this [tripod.com]. However, once I manually copied the link, clicking it brings me to the correct location.

          I ain't white. That threw a wrench into your little program, didn't it?

          Nope, what you said is still crap. And now you just added the stupid notion of "only whites can be racist" on top of your
  • So, will IBM own my DNA, If I send mine in?

    While Choicepoint is not mentioned in TFA, If you don't think they and their like-minded competitors are salivating on getting their hands on everyone's DNA, then you have not been paying attention.

    IBM does the collection, Choicepoint could do the harvesting, it all sounds just wonderful, doesn't it?

    I wonder what the going rate for Briteny Spear's DNA is?
  • by ajnsue (773317) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @01:23PM (#12224840)
    One concern is that the folks may pervert the finding of this data to support one of two equally corrupt conclusions. One that finding a single lineage of all people (monogenism) endorses the Judeo-Christian beliefs in Adam & Eve. Or two that multiple sources of origin (polyenism) can justify racism - in that some lineages are "less" evolved than others. The dangers of these ideas are well documented by Louis Menand in his wonderful book "The Metaphysical Club"

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