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Known as the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool, the method is accurate enough to locate the village from which the subject’s ancestors came, and has significant implications for personalized medical treatment.
The new tool was created by Dr. Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield and Dr. Tatiana Tararinova from the University of Southern California. Whereas previous methods have only been able to trace the origin of a person’s DNA to within some 700 km (435 miles), the new method can track worldwide populations back to the islands or villages they descend from, with a 98 percent success rate.
GPS focuses on genetic admixture, a historically common occurrence in which previously separate populations begin to interbreed, creating new gene pools in the process. The new tool models this process by looking at more than 100,000 DNA signatures, known as ancestry-informative markers (AIMs) that are typical to specific geographical regions. The GPS tool uses autosomal chromosomes for analysis rather than mitochondrial or Y chromosomal DNA, as they provide a more balanced picture of an individual’s genetic makeup.
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