History or her-story?

DNA studies reveal that throughout history, women have moved around far more than men. This is probably because they moved to their husbands' villages when they married. Scientists can work out the movements of our female ancestors by looking at stretches of our mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on only by our mothers. Similarly, they can work out the movements of our male ancestors by looking at Y-chromosome DNA, which is passed from fathers to sons.

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Roma and Bob on their wedding day.

Polynesian surprises?

The mitochondrial DNA of the inhabitants of Polynesian islands in the Pacific Ocean is more similar to people from South East Asia than to people from South America. This shows that the Polynesians' ancestors probably came from Asia, not South America, as some people once thought. However, studies of Y-chromosome DNA of the inhabitants of Polynesian island Rarotonga reveal that a third of the population have European male ancestors – possibly eighteenth-century sailors.

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Marilyn Corey is Hawaiian.

Want to be decoded?

Icelandic doctor Kári Stefansson set up his own company – deCODE Genetics – in 1996 to create a giant electronic database of genetic information on every citizen in Iceland, a country where the population was isolated for 1000 years. DNA samples were collected from volunteers and analysed to look for gene variants that affect their predisposition to disease. You can also send them a cheek swab and they claim to be able to analyse your DNA to calculate your risk to diseases.

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A giant electronic database of genetic information on every citizen in Iceland is being created.

 

Principal Funder:

Wellcome trust

Major Sponsors:

GlaxoSmithKline life technologies