Each person has his or her own unique DNA coding. DNA sequences are responsible for an array of things such as genetic conditions and diseases. One's DNA can convey genetic history passed on through generations. Scientist from Tel Aviv University believes it is also possible to use an individual's DNA sequence to map one's family's tree.
With a group of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, Professor Eran Halperin of TAU's Blavatnik School of Computer Science and Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, are pioneering "genetic mapping." Through probabilistic modeling of genetic traits, Halperin and colleagues have developed a technique that will be able to calculate the precise geographic location of an individual ancestral origin.
This new technique will identify a specific location of one's ancestors, for instance placing one's father in Paris and mother in Barcelona. Prior studies would "split the difference," placing the origin of one's parents in a region between those two cities.
According to Halperin, a human genome called the SNPs is exhibited differently in each person. At one point these human genome were mutated and passed down to a larger part of the population, specifically to a particular geographic location. The likelihood of an individual being able to possess these mutations depends on the geographical location of early ancestors.
"We wanted to ask, for example, about the probability of having the genetic mutation 'A' in a particular position on the genome based on geographical coordinates," he said.
Professor Halperin alongside his team of researchers examined the DNA samples of 1,157 people from Europe. With the use of the probabilistic mathematical algorithm based on mutations in the genome, researchers were able to identify the ancestral point or points of origin using DNA coding and mathematical models, as a means to untangle the genetic sequence to two distinct points on the map for the mother and father.
Halperin hopes this new technique will be able to offer new information that can be applied to population genetic studies, such as research on a particular disease that impacts a specific group of individuals. Researchers will be able to track changes in different genomic traits, such as traits in southern Europeans that have mutations in a gene that may cause lactose intolerance.
This new method may also assist in the animal kingdom following movements of animal populations.
"In principle, you could figure out where the animals have migrated from, and as a result learn about habitat changes due to historical climate change or other factors," Halperin said.