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History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings
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historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the
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New Genomics Software Infers Ancestry With High Accuracy
ScienceDaily — Some people may know where their ancestors lived 10 or 20 generations ago, but the rest of us can learn our distant biological heritage only from our DNA. New genomics analysis software developed by computer scientists at Stanford appears far more adept than prior methods at unraveling the ancestry of individuals. A new paper describes the HAPAA system, which takes its name from "hapa," the Hawaiian word for someone of mixed ancestry.Going back 20 generations the software can identify what continent or broad global region an individual's ancestors were from. But going back about 10 generations the software can be much more precise, making distinctions as fine-grained as the traditional gene pools of nearby population groups—hypothetically differentiating Greek from Italian, or Russian from German.
Specifically what the software does is compare an individual to all those in the International HapMap database to see what distinct spans of genetic snippets, called haploblocks, they share in common.
"With very high accuracy, even for 20 generations, we can trace the populations of those individuals who are indeed represented in your genome," says Stanford computer science Assistant Professor Serafim Batzoglou, who led a team of graduate students to create HAPAA. They include co-lead authors Andreas Sundquist and Eugene Fratkin, as well as Chuong B. Do.
Batzoglou points out that because the HapMap database, a genetic record of 270 individuals of Western European, West African and East Asian ancestry, is very small, HAPAA now can only generate an ethnic profile in terms of these populations.
Fratkin himself was able to verify that he is of European ancestry, but not that he is 1/64th Polish. But more genomics data will become available, the researchers said, which will further expand the software's ability to help people discern their roots.