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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Genetic lab maps ancestral human travel

    The UA’s Human Origins Genotyping Laboratory is doing genetic testing for a project that attempts to connect the remote ancestry of human beings.

    The lab does DNA testing from public participation kits submitted to National Geographic’s “”The Human Genographic Project,”” which is using modern DNA to map the genetic migration of ancient humans as they left Africa and colonized the world.

    As the DNA blueprint of humans is copied from parent to child, mutations will occur over time, said Matt Kaplan, Arizona research lab staff scientist and project lead. These genetic markers are used to group people with their common ancestors and determine their possible route out of Africa.

    “”The bigger role that the Genographic Project will play in history will be that this is an incredible public outreach,”” Kaplan said. “”This is you learning about your genetics. Everybody has a story, and this is your story about your journey.””

    “”It’s a huge operation and it has very, very global implications, but also very, very localized implications,”” said research specialist Barbara Fransway.

    Participants buy a test kit through National Geographic and send in two cheek-swab samples of their DNA.

    For participating, they will receive an online map of their ancestors’ route out of Africa and specific information about the DNA they belong to.

    The funds generated from the kits will help pay for collecting genetic samples from indigenous people to get the fullest scope of the migratory history of the human race.

    As of Thursday, the UA has tested 266,667 DNA samples, Fransway said.

    Every week the lab receives a shipment of 1,500 to 2,000 samples but their peak

    The bigger role that the Genographic Project will play in history will be that this is an incredible public outreach. This is you learning about your genetics. Everybody has a story, and this is your story about your journey.

    -Matt Kaplan
    Arizona research lab staff scientist and project lead

    volume is 4,000 samples a week, Kaplan said. He added that testers are constantly striving to increase efficiency and maintain accuracy.

    The lab also provides an educational opportunity for students to work directly on the project. The lab currently employs nine undergraduate students and four high school students who are involved in most steps of the DNA-testing process, Kaplan said.

    “”It’s not just the lab work for me,”” said Crystal Richt, a student employee and a ecology and evolutional biology senior. “”It’s about meeting people and realizing other opportunities available.””

    Biochemistry junior Donn Ellstrom, who has been working at the lab since January, said he enjoys the working environment and feels that the researchers he is working with are also great mentors and teachers.

    Fransway said the project opens up dialogue on human evolution and allows the general public to see how they fit into the human family tree.

    “”The fact that we are all related, and we can prove that genetically, and we have proved it – that’s a very powerful thing,”” she said.

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