Thursday, November 15, 2007

New approach to interpreting African American DNA

If you watched the PBS miniseries, "African American Lives," you are familiar with its host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Harvard's Gates Refines Genetic-Ancestry Searches for Blacks," explores Gates new venture, emphasizing DNA research is not yet a perfect science.

The article notes, In 2005, Dr. Gates, an African-American Studies scholar, had his DNA tested again and was told by another commercial genealogy service that his maternal lineage didn't track to Egypt, or even to Africa. Instead, it went back to a European in colonial America, who historians believe was a white indentured servant . . . the second version of Dr. Gates's lineage turned out to be the right one. But the mistakes made by the burgeoning genetic-ancestry industry have continued -- prompting Dr. Gates to start his own DNA-tracing company, one that he says will be able to take a more refined look at African-American ancestry. Dr. Gates's new company, African DNA LLC, aims to use historians and anthropologists to explain which of various genetic possibilities prompted by DNA traces is more historically likely.

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