Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Genetic inheritance

The growth of genetic analysis is a wonder to behold.  My father observed that he had personally witnessed and participated in the most profound change of technological culture the world had ever seen.  He was born in 1915, when the major means of transportation in Philadelphia was still the horse.  He died in 2007, 38 years after man reached the moon, not to mention the much-noted invention of Saran Wrap.

I graduated from med school in 1967.  We did know about DNA and genetics in general, very general.  We knew very little about immunology, maybe up to chapter 2 of a now 50 chapter book, I'd guess.  Pharmacology was still utterly empirical; no one thought through genetic makeup; no one figured out which molecules would glom onto which receptors on a cell wall, I think.  It was still so totally hit or miss.

The story of anthropology was also aborning in that time.  Africa had been identified as the origin of man, but from pure fossil evidence from the Olduvai Gorge, not genetics.   The path of migration hadn't been identified; that would have to await genetics.  Now we know that Africa holds the greatest genetic heterogenicity in the world, which is evidence for being the place of our origin.  We can also pinpoint the female inheritance side, the male inheritance side, and trace the migration of groups.

And now, totally amazingly, for less than $200, or in my case totally free since I got it as a Christmas present, you can take a little sample of your inner cheek and send it to the Genographic Project and receive back the story of your heritage.  To summarize my story, my genetic makeup is 58% Mediterranean (surprise!), 21% Southwestern Asian, 18% Northern European, and 2% Northeast Asian.  My hominid ancestry is 2.2% Neanderthal, and 2.5% Denisovan!!!  My closest matches are Iranian and Sardinian (?).  Probably should visit those two places as a "homecoming."

Go to and look around.  It's a new world in finding out about the old world.

Budd Shenkin

1 comment:

  1. ..2.2% Neanderthal, and 2.5% Denisovan...
    That is why you can plan so well. Africa may be the cradle of civilization, but the 100,000 years of northern European winters taught the Neanderthal's how to plan and plan well! Important skills for the present world.