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Scientists map the DNA of ethnic groups in former Soviet Union

By The Siberian Times reporter
19 February 2015

Experts in Tomsk use pioneering techniques to solve crimes.

Even a small amount of biological material - a few hairs, a blood stain, allow us to define the ethno-territorial origin of any person.' Picture: Valery Bychkov

Scientists at the Institute of Medical Genetics in Tomsk can locate a person to a small region with their DNA mapping technique. 

Deputy director of Scientific Affairs at the institute, Vadim Stepanov, said: 'If we have a DNA sample, we can tell where is the person from, sometimes down to a district.' 

He explained: 'To put it simply, the essence of the technology is that we know which peculiarities of DNA each nation has. On the basis of this knowledge we can determine from which locality a person comes from. Even a small amount of biological material - a few hairs, a blood stain, allow us to define the ethno-territorial origin of any person.'

Siberia, like much of the Russian Federation, comprises many dozens of distinct indigenous nationalities. In fact, the Tomsk experts have gone wider, mapping the DNA of ethnic groups across Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. 

Vadim Stepanov

Deputy director of Scientific Affairs at the institute, Vadim Stepanov, said: 'If we have a DNA sample, we can tell where is the person from, sometimes down to a district.' Picture: Institute of Medical Genetics

'Theoretically our method is close to what is often used by historians and archaeologists, when they determine the origin of man from a particular group of people, from a particular territory. But we try to solve more practical issues.' 

Among these are combating crime. In Novosibirsk, their database was used to snare a sex attacker who raped children after calling at flats posing as a housing officer. He preyed on children over a ten year period. 

Victims had identified him as a man with a non-Slavisk appearance but analysis of his genetic material enabled the scientists to pin down far more closely his origin.

'Using our knowledge of the gene pool, we found that this person has a descent in the male line from the territory of Buryatia, specifically - from Barguzin district,' said Professor Stepanov. 

'It allowed us to narrow down the list of suspects, and two weeks later the perpetrator was arrested. He lived in Novosibirsk, but his father was of Buryat origin, from Barguzin district. His mother was Russian.'

The experts have ambitious plans. 

Soviet Union nations

Representatives of the Soviet Union nationalities on the Red Square. Picture: centrosib.info

'We are working on a large in-depth knowledge about the differences between DNA,' said the biologist. We are creating the technical basis for studies on a large number of parameters. 

'Put simply, when we need to collate not 10 genes but 1000, it will require a very different technical base.' 

Uses could include identification of disaster victims, and medical researcher, for example, the susceptibility of different groups to disease. 

Another use might be helping families track their ethnic heritages. 

Comments (2)

How to find out about my heritage Give us contact information Sredez@aol.com
Ned Mitev, Saint Louis
02/03/2015 09:34
1
0
How would I get in contact with the institute?







My 23andme profile shows I have about half my DNA related to Eastern Europe, specifically Lithuania, Russia and the Baltic region. But being adopted I have little other information on that portion of my heritage..
David Nakase, Los Angeles, CA USA
21/02/2015 09:29
4
0
1

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