A team of scientists from the University of Sheffield, specialized in studying ancient DNA, have developed a new DNA tool for straightforwardly tracing ancient Eurasian populations and estimating an individual’s similarity to prehistoric people.
At the moment, the study of ancient DNA is challenging and requires a lot of information. Thanks to a new DNA tool, researchers can spot specific genetic mutations, the so-called Ancient Ancestry Informative Markers (aAIMs), that are informative enough to determine and categorize ancient populations.
We developed a new method that finds aAIMs efficiently and has proved that it is accurate. Ancient populations are much more diverse than modern ones. Their diversity was reduced over the years following events such as the Neolithic revolution and the Black Death. Although we have many more people today, they are all far more similar to each other than ancient people. In addition, the ancient data themselves are problematic due to a large amount of degraded DNA,” explained Dr. Eran Elhaik.
Ancient DNA Is Now Straightforwardly Traceable Thanks To New DNA Tool
“Ancient genomes typically consist of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of markers. We demonstrated that only 13,000 markers are needed to make accurate population classifications for ancient genomes and while the field of ancient forensics does not exist yet, these aAIMs can help us get much closer to ancient people,” Dr. Elhaik continued.
“Until now you couldn’t test people for ancient DNA ancestry because commercial microarrays, such as the ones used for genetic genealogy, don’t have a lot of markers relevant for paleogenomics – people could not study their primeval origins. This finding of aAIMs is like finding the fingerprints of ancient people. It allows testing of a small number of markers – that can be found in a commonly available array – and you can ask what part of your genome is from Roman Britons or Viking, or Chumash Indians, or ancient Israelites, etc.,” added Dr. Elhaik.
“We can ask any question we want about these ancient people as long as someone sequenced these ancient markers. So this paper brings the field of paleogenomics to the public,” Elhaik concluded.
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