NEWS 2005

 

Indigenous people resist DNA-project

Genographic research as neo-colonial attitude

28.04.2005

Medical News Briefs By Marietta Gross

The ambitious DNA profiling "Genographic project" (See.. 
http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic ) which seeks to retrace the path of human settlement on Earth has been encountering resistance among indigenous people. After a boycott-appeal by the US-American Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism 
http://www.ipcb.org , now some Maori and African First Nations have also announced concerns over the project .

The project which seeks to find the settlement of the Blue Planet beginning from Africa by means of genetic samples of several 100,000 inhabitants was started in April by IBM and the science magazine National Geographic. The main point of criticism by native people is the argument, that the research is in effect a modern form of colonialism, explained Paul Reynolds from the Maori Research Centre at Auckland University. 

"Indigenous people already have a history of their origin which was communicated over generations by their ancestors. Further scientific proofs are thus decrepit." 

Additionally the Maori see the extraction of DNA-samples as Tapu, meaning sacred or restricted. 

Spencer Wells who is responsible for the five-year-project with an estimated cost of US$40 million dollars doesn't see these worries. He wants to track the accurate migration route of the human species, who probably settled the Earth beginning from Africa 200,000 years ago. Recent research suggests a volcanic eruption in Sumatra decimated the species Homo Sapiens to only 2,000 individuals 70,000 years ago. 

The ambitious project in which every citizen can volunteer - the equipment for the DNA-saliva costs inclusive mailing expenses $137 Dollar - is primarily interested in indigenous people who are living in isolation. Wells had detected the descendants of Genghis Khan in Northern Pakistan by means of genetic analyses.



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Wanted: DNA To Track Roots of Family Tree

April 18, 2005 12:07PM 

If scientists are right, all 6 billion people living on the planet today have ancestors who lived in Africa a long time ago. That concept has prompted some scientists to suggest that an African “Adam and Eve” - or at least a small group of genetically similar hunter-gatherers lie at the base of what is now a many-branched human family tree.

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The National Geographic Society has begun what may be the ultimate search for human roots. For $99.95 and a swab of spit, anyone can join in and get a whole new perspective on the family tree. 
The society last week launched a five-year project to seek the origins of the human species and map the migration of ancient peoples out of Africa as they populated the globe. 

The $40 million Genographic Project will collect blood samples from 100,000 indigenous peoples throughout the world, analyze them for genetic markers and try to determine their geographic origins. 

”Our DNA tells a fascinating story of the human journey, how we are all related and how our ancestors got to where we are today,” says population geneticist Spencer Wells, who will head the project. 

To generate public interest, Geographic is also offering a test kit that will allow anyone to take a swab of saliva and send it to a laboratory for DNA analysis. For assisting in the project’s finances, participants will get a “personalized genetic analysis,” a peek at their “deep ancestral history” - and assurances of totalprivacy. 
The kits can be ordered at www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic. Individual test results are expected to take about six weeks. 
Lest anyone be seeking proof that their ancestors came over on the Mayflower, National Geographic cautions that the test will “not provide names for your personal family tree or tell you where your great-grandparents lived.” The society does promise, however, that everyone will get a genetic profile that will tell them something about their “deep ancestors.” 
Really deep. Most fossil evidence suggests that modern humans appeared in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and began migrating to other continents about 60,000 years ago. 
Some scientists say there was a single migration, some say more. Asia, Europe and Australia were the next to be populated. The Americas were the last. 
If scientists are right, all 6 billion people living on the planet today have ancestors who lived in Africa a long time ago. That concept has prompted some scientists to suggest that an African “Adam and Eve” - or at least a small group of genetically similar hunter-gatherers lie at the base of what is now a many-branched human family tree. 

”We have some indications from prior studies about the migration of people in the last 50,000 to 10,000 years,” says Ajay Royyuru of IBM’s Computational Biology Center, which is collaborating on the project. 

”What’s missing is the detail, the ability for everyone on the planet to be able to see, understand, exactly how they got to be where they are.” 

Ten research centers around the world will receive funding from the Waitt Family Foundation—founded by Gateway computer magnate Ted Waitt—to collect and analyze the DNA samples. 

Each individual, from hair color to susceptibility to certain diseases, is the result of the unique combination of their parents’ genetic code. 

But some genetic material, the male Y chromosome and maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA, is passed to the succeeding generations essentially unchanged, except for rare natural mutations that enable researchers to identify lineages extending back for thousands of years. 

”Once a particular marker appears by mutation in a man, all of his descendants will also carry that marker,” Wells says. 

”If we compile information on a large set of markers and project them back in time using computer algorithms, the trail of mutations coalesces in a single Y-chromosome whose owner lived between 40,000 to 140,000 years ago in Africa.” 

Because that mutation, named M94, is now carried by every man on the planet, Wells likes to call this man “Genetic Adam.” But even he concedes the term may be misleading. He says there were certainly other humans living at the same time. Their lineages simply didn’t make it to the present. 

Subsequent random mutations define later branches of the human family tree: lineages that crept out of Africa into Mesopotamia, some that headed east to Asia, and others that moved north, with the advent of agriculture, into the Caucasus and Europe.

American Indians still carry marker mutations that first occurred among the natives of Siberia, and their genetic fingerprints came with them when their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait more than 12,000 years ago. 

Wells says the dozens of other random mutations that have accumulated in the DNA of contemporary humans - in addition to Genetic Adam’s M94 mutation - constitute a kind of genetic fingerprint that can reveal whether their distant ancestors passed through the Middle East or the land bridge from Siberia or crossed the ocean from Europe to America. 

Initial efforts to use DNA to track human migrations, a project headed a few years ago by Stanford University population geneticist Luca Cavalli-Sforza, sampled the DNA from 52 indigenous groups and found five clusters of lineages that closely matched their ancestors’ continent of origin. 

With a goal of collecting more than 100,000 DNA samples representing every indigenous group on the planet, the National Geographic effort hopes to paint a much more detailed picture of human migration. 

The society also hopes to avoid the political fuss that, more than a decade ago, prompted the federal government to withdraw support for a similar project that was intended to study the human genome. 

Unlike the federally funded effort, which was criticized for overtones of racism in looking for genetic differences among populations, National Geographic will not gather any information on genetic diseases and will make all of its anthropological data freely available. 

Wells says he feels a sense of urgency in the project. 

He says as political upheavals, environmental disruption and air travel prompt more people to move, the world is becoming less genetically diverse. Indigenous populations in particular are under pressure. 

”We need to take a genetic snapshot of who we are as a species before the geographic and cultural context are lost in the melting pot,” he says. 

© 2005 Cox News Service. 
© 2005 Top Tech News.



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New DNA project to trace human migrations

By Jason Motlagh

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Washington, DC, Apr. 18 (UPI) The National Geographic Society and IBM Corp. have launched a joint five-year study to attempt to trace definitively the migratory history of the human species using DNA analysis.

The Genographic Project is a non-profit research partnership in which a team of international scientists, spearheaded by Spencer Wells, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, will gather genetic samples to map and analyze how Earth was populated.

"We see this as the 'moon shot' of anthropology, using genetics to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of human history," Wells said. 
He said more than 100,000 DNA samples will be gathered from indigenous groups and the global public to be analyzed at 10 research centers worldwide. The project is expected to reveal details that provide a new understanding of the connections and differences that make up the human species. 

"National Geographic has been exploring and mapping the world for 117 years," said John Fahey, the society's president and chief executive officer. "This is the biggest thing of its kind we have ever done. The field science work ... will go into a virtual museum of human history." 

Fahey said that unlike the Human Genome Project, this collaboration has no medical objectives and is "at its core a historical and anthropological project."

The resulting database is expected to become a vital resource for geneticists, historians and anthropologists seeking answers to age-old questions about the genetic diversity of species Homo sapiens.

"The more we can improve our understanding of the common origin and journey of humankind, the greater the possibility for all of us to see each other as members of the same family," said Ted Waitt, founder of the Waitt Family Foundation, one of the project's underwriters. "I believe this is vital at a time when people tend to emphasize differences."

One of the Genographic Project's core components involves field research. Scientists will collect blood samples from indigenous populations whose DNA has remained relatively unaltered over hundreds of generations. The samples should serve as reliable indicators of ancient migratory patterns.

The project also encourages public participation, inviting individuals to purchase a DNA-sampling kit for $99 and submit cheek swabs for analysis. The kit purchase and sample submission entitles participants to obtain information about their own migratory histories and track the project's overall progress securely online. 

This way, a person can "understand his (or her) connection to people around the world -- that we are all linked to each other by a genetic thread, and that our threads are interwoven through the migration of our ancestors," Wells said.

Fahey noted that people had purchased 1,200 kits within the first few days of availability on the National Geographic's Web site. 
Some of the proceeds from the sale of the genographic kits will fund the Legacy Project, designed to support education and cultural preservation among indigenous groups.

The project builds on a body of work by Wells that includes a book and a television documentary -- both titled "The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey." He said the goal is to capture a "genetic snapshot" of human diversity before it is permanently erased by the homogenizing effects of globalization.

"Our DNA carries a story that is shared by everyone," he said. "We'll be deciphering that story, which is now in danger of being lost as people migrate and mix to a much greater extent than they have in the past." 

Wells explained that as people increasingly move to urban centers, diverse native languages that are critical markers to understanding migratory histories are disappearing. Of the roughly 6,000 languages reported to be practiced worldwide, one is said to be lost every two weeks. Some have estimated that over 50 percent will vanish by 2050.

When asked what he saw as the effort's primary possible outcomes, Ajay Royyuru, IBM's lead scientist on the project, said he hoped to build a statistical model for human variation and migration.

"There are a host of questions ... that are unique to each indigenous population -- language, dialects, appearance -- we want to answer," he said. "What correlations will we find? Can we trace how these particular characteristics are unique to individual indigenous groups?"

Three representatives of indigenous communities that are participating in the field research attended the launch ceremony in Washington last week. Each had agreed to undergo DNA analysis, and the results of their tests were made known to them for the first time.

Julius Indaaya Hun!un!ume, a Hadza Chieftain from Tanzania whose tribe is the last of his nation's hunter-gatherers, learned that his genetic lineage can be traced back to the very origins of humans in East Africa.

Battur Tumur, a Mongolian émigré now living in San Francisco, discovered he was a direct descendant of 12th century warlord Genghis Khan, a revered symbol of strength and stability in his homeland. 

Phil Bluehouse Jr., a Navajo Indian living in Arizona, found out that his ancestry linked to nomads that once roamed present-day Mongolia, a recurring notion he said had permeated his dreams since he was a boy. He said he now felt more complete as a person knowing all people are connected, and the Genographic Project had confirmed a belief the deeply spiritual Navajo peoples have long held to be true.

"Because we know who we are, we can better understand the being that links us all together," he said. "We're all beautifully connected, there's no other way to put it."

Jason Motlagh is an intern for UPI Science News. 

E-mail: sciencemail@upi.com 

SOURCE: http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20050413-052535-4867r.htm



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Project digs into the roots of mankind

Posted on Mon, Apr. 18, 2005

MIKE TONER

Cox News Service


ATLANTA - The National Geographic Society has begun what may be the ultimate search for human roots. For $99.95 and a swab of spit, anyone can join in and get a whole new perspective on their family tree.

The society last week launched a five-year project to seek the origins of the human species and map the migration of ancient peoples out of Africa as they populated the globe.

The $40 million Genographic Project will collect blood samples from 100,000 indigenous peoples throughout the world, analyze them for genetic markers and try to determine their geographic origins.

"Our DNA tells a fascinating story of the human journey, how we are all related and how our ancestors got to where we are today," says population geneticist Spencer Wells, who will head the project.

To generate public interest, Geographic is also offering a test kit that will allow anyone to take a swab of saliva and send it to a laboratory for DNA analysis. Participants will get a "personalized genetic analysis," a peek at their "deep ancestral history" - and assurances of total privacy.

The kits can be ordered at www3.nationalgeographic.-com/genographic. Individual test results are expected to take about six weeks.

Lest anyone be seeking proof that their ancestors came over on the Mayflower, National Geographic cautions that the test will "not provide names for your personal family tree or tell you where your great-grandparents lived." The society does promise, however, that everyone will get a genetic profile that will tell them something about their "deep ancestors."

Really deep. Most fossil evidence suggests that modern humans appeared in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and began migrating to other continents about 60,000 years ago.

Some scientists say there was a single migration, some say more. Asia, Europe and Australia were the next to be populated. The Americas were the last.

If scientists are right, all 6 billion people living on the planet today have ancestors who lived in Africa a long time ago. That concept has prompted some scientists to suggest that an African "Adam and Eve" - or at least a small group of genetically similar hunter-gatherers - lie at the base of what is now a many-branched human family tree.

"We have some indications from prior studies about the migration of people in the last 50,000 to 10,000 years," says Ajay Royyuru of IBM's Computational Biology Center, which is collaborating on the project.

"What's missing is the detail, the ability for everyone on the planet to be able to see, understand, exactly how they got to be where they are."

Ten research centers around the world will receive funding from the Waitt Family Foundation - founded by Gateway computer magnate Ted Waitt - to collect and analyze the DNA samples.

Each individual is the result of the unique combination of their parents' genetic code.

But some genetic material, the male Y chromosome and maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA, is passed to the succeeding generations essentially unchanged, except for rare natural mutations that enable researchers to identify lineages extending back thousands of years.

"Once a particular marker appears by mutation in a man, all of his descendants will also carry that marker," Wells says.

"If we compile information on a large set of markers and project them back in time using computer algorithms, the trail of mutations coalesces in a single Y-chromosome whose owner lived between 40,000 to 140,000 years ago in Africa."

Because that mutation, named M94, is now carried by every man on the planet, Wells likes to call this man "Genetic Adam." But even he concedes the term may be misleading. He says there were certainly other humans living at the same time. Their lineages simply didn't make it to the present.

With a goal of collecting more than 100,000 DNA samples representing every indigenous group on the planet, the National Geographic effort hopes to paint a detailed picture of human migration.

The society also hopes to avoid the political fuss that, more than a decade ago, prompted the federal government to withdraw support for a similar project that was intended to study the human genome.

National Geographic will not gather any information on genetic diseases and will make all of its anthropological data freely available.

SOURCE: http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/11421095.htm 


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