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
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.