27 December 2006

An inside look at a DNA lab

The University of Arizona's Biological Sciences West Building is home to the lab that does the testing for Family Tree DNA and for the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project.

The lab, part of the UA Arizona Research Laboratories' Human Origins Genotyping Laboratory, has already processed more than 211,000 DNA samples for people who want to know whence they came. It's a gene research factory, a "high-throughput genomics operation," in genetic jargon.

At November's annual Family Tree DNA conference in Houston, Texas, I had the great pleasure to meet Matt Kaplan, project leader for the NGS.
Looked at another way, "It's basically, a dating service for genealogists," says Kaplan. He's quick to point out that genealogy researchers only get access to data from participants who agree to release their information.
But, he says, many people do because it opens them up to getting even more information about their pasts as genealogists often connect their genetic information with others and create a more complete past.
Better yet, the "resolution" - the detail - of DNA-derived histories is increasing all the time as more people put their information into genealogical databases, says Kaplan.
Technological advances also make the information more telling. Kaplan says developments in genomics outstrip nearly every other branch of science.

At the conference, Matt explained that his real focus is lizards and that he never thought he'd be interested in human origins.

"I didn't think I'd care at all," says Kaplan. Not so. Since working on the Genographic Project, Kaplan says he has looked into his own past, finding that he came from Eastern European Jewish roots and routes.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


  1. Shelly -
    This is very interesting. I had my mtDNA done through the National Geographic Project. Recently I came a cross an amazing article that shows how the begining of Ashkenazic Jewry has been traced back to just 4 women. If you are of either haplogoup K or N1 then you really should look at this. You can read the article at http://www.southerngenealogy.com/Founding_Mothers.pdf

  2. Linda,
    Thank you for posting the study by Dr. Doron Behar of Haifa.
    The field of genetic genealogy is helping so many people fight their way through the forest of family trees.