Think, that your ancestors were Roman Britons, Vikings or ancient Israelites? A new DNA tool can help you trace your similarity to these ancient people who once roamed the earth, say researchers. Currently the study of ancient DNA requires a lot of information to classify a skeleton to a population or find its bio-geographical origins.
But, scientists from the UK’s University of Sheffield, defined a new concept called Ancient Ancestry Informative Markers (aAIMs) — a group of mutations that are sufficiently informative to identify and classify ancient populations. They found that the identification of a small group of aAIMs that can be used to classify skeletons to ancient populations.
“We developed a new method that finds aAIMs efficiently and have proved that it is accurate,” said lead author Eran Elhaik, from Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.
The new tool identifies aAIMs by combining traditional methodology with a novel one that takes into account a mixture.
People are currently unable to trace their primeval origins because commercial micro-arrays, such as the ones used for genetic genealogy, do not have relevant markers. But aAIMs is like finding the fingerprints of ancient people, Elhaik noted.
“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. We can ask any question we want about these ancient people as long as someone sequenced these ancient markers,” he explained.
The researchers found that 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,” Elhaik said.