We all know that DNA makes up who we are and what our bodies are like. But scientists have been trying to do new things with genes and specifically what the sequences of a gene can tell us about our history. DNA becomes mixed when people from different places migrate around the world and reproduce with other people. Because of this, human DNA has become very similar around the world with certain traits being associated with certain areas of the world, but an over all diffusion of most traits.
But recently scientists have found a people who have some how managed to stay isolated for thousands of years. In a recent article in The New York Times, the scientists were finally able to get a lock of hair from one of these Australian Aborigines. When scientists sequenced a lock of hair from an Australian Aborigine, they found that it had “no evidence of European admixture and estimate contamination levels to be below .5%.” This means that the Aborigine’s DNA hasn’t been influenced by any other people around the world since they migrated from Africa to Australia about 50,000 years ago. For these people to have kept themselves isolated for so long is amazing, but it also means that these people’s DNA is one of the closest to links to the human race’s ancestors.
These scientists have tried to use their knowledge about human DNA to figure out how the earliest people migrated from place to place through history. This is limited because DNA has a very random component of what genes get passed on. Also scientists look for mutations which have developed in one group of people that isn’t present in another group of people to see when these people could have diverged in migration in history. This is only a guess becuase mutations are random and so is their frequency. When trying to estimate when things could have happened by using the differences in the number of mutations in DNA, scientists have to make guesses that span around ten thousand years depending on how far back they go.
Scientists have been studying DNA for a very long time. There have been many different ways people have thought of using DNA, some which seem like crazy science fiction such as the movie GATTACA which uses the idea of controlling every bit of a person’s DNA to make them perfect. Then there are the other ones which people might never have thought possible but which are now well known such as cloning an animal by implanting DNA from one animal into another animal’s egg cell. How far can people go with cloning and other DNA research? What other uses does DNA provide?