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For week ended February 27, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

BYU professor takes genealogy to new level, plans to genotype the world
BYU NewsNet 21Feb00 P2
By Roger Bryner: NewsNet Staff Writer

PROVO, UTAH -- BYU Professor of Molecular Biology Scott Woodward has started a new multimillion dollar project that could aid genealogists and others studying populations. Woodward is studying the genes of different populations around the world through a process called genotyping. By developing a database of genotypes of different populations, it should be possible to compare an individual's genotype with the database and determine which population(s) the person comes from.

Genotyping takes a sample of a person's genes (usually from their blood) and looking at key markers in the genes that make up a kind of genetic 'fingerprint.' These 'fingerprints' are sometimes used for legal procedures such as determining parentage and identifying assailants that leave genetic material behind (such as rapists).

These profiles can also be used to compare populations, because populations tend to share some genetic traits. For example, hair, skin and eye color are often associated with particular populations, and their associated genetic markers could be used to show that an individual comes from that population,

This ability is not only useful for genealogists, but also for researchers trying to learn about populations and how they migrated. Social Scientists and Archaeologists can use the information to track how populations migrated around the world and how they dealt with one another.

Woodward's study will try to determine how accurately genotyping can trace genealogy. He says that the genealogical information available through the LDS Church makes BYU the ideal place for this research, "We are reconstructing genealogies based on DNA," Woodward said. "Inside each of our cells we carry a history of who we are."

Woodward is asking BYU students and faculty to participate in his study by allowing themselves to be genotyped, and letting the data be included in the study, "We would like to collect as many samples from BYU faculty, students and staff as possible," Woodward said. Participants will be asked to provide genealogical information and a small blood sample. In addition to the BYU samples, Woodward hopes to collect samples from 500 different populations around the world. He also hopes this will become an ongoing process, and believes that it will require six to seven years to collect sufficient samples.


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