The Melungeons blog

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

DNA Testing: In Our Blood - Newsweek Technology -

DNA Testing: In Our Blood - Newsweek Technology - "Our blood holds the secrets to who we are, and, increasingly, individuals, families and research scientists are using genetic testing to tell us what we don't already know. Human genomes are 99.9 percent identical; we are far more similar than diverse. But that tiny 0.1 percent difference holds clues to our ancestries, the roots of all human migration and even our propensity for disease. Tens of thousands of Americans have swabbed their cheeks and mailed in their DNA to companies nationwide for testing. Far-flung cousins are finding each other; family legends are being overturned. Six years ago the term genetic genealogy was meaningless, says Bennett Greenspan, head of Family Tree DNA, which has 52,000 customers. 'Now the interest is huge.' So huge that celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Quincy Jones are signing on. This week Gates and other high-profile black Americans will tell their stories on PBS's new series 'African American Lives.'

As individuals track down their personal family narratives, population geneticists are seeking to tell the larger story of humankind. Our most recent common ancestors�a genetic 'Adam' and 'Eve'�have been traced back to Africa, and other intriguing forebears are being discovered all over the map. Last month one group of scientists found that 40 percent of the world's Ashkenazi Jews descend from just four women; another reported that one in five males in northwest Ireland may be a descendant of a legendary fifth-century warlord. The most ambitious effort by far is the National Geographic Society's $40 million Genographic Project, which aims to collect 100,000 DNA samples from indigenous populations around the world over the next five years. The goal: to trace human roots from the present day back to the origin of


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