BAMAD no.30

 DNA and 
 Anthropology Updates 

Updates in DNA studies along with Anthropological Notes of general interest with a particular emphasis on points pertinent to the study of Ancient Israelite Ancestral Connections to Western Peoples as explained in Brit-Am studies.


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Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
1. Criticism of DNA Findings and Racial Conclusions
2. Genetics Confirm Oral Traditions Of Druze In Israel
3. Graeme
McChesney: Environment Influences Genetic Patterns!
Selected Articles, "Moses and Science"

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1. Criticism of DNA Findings and Racial Conclusions
"Race in a Genetic World"

Most tests focus on just two types of DNA: the paternally inherited Y sex chromosome that only men carry, and mitochondrial DNA, which is passed exclusively from mothers to their children. Scientists favor these markers with good reason: because only one parent can pass them to offspring, they are not subject to recombination, the reshuffling of genetic data that normally occurs in each generation. But they represent less than 1 percent of a subject's DNA, and each tells about only one ancestor per generation. Two generations back, a customer might learn about one of four grandparents; three generations back, about one of eight great-grandparents; and by 10 generations back (roughly 250 years ago), such genetic tests reference just one of the 1,024 ancestors in that generation. It doesn't take long to reach the point when, mathematically, a person's ancestors start to outnumber the sum total of all people who have ever lived.

But an Asian-American student was surprised to find that she carried almost the same genetic markers as a Mexican-American student. Wells explained, "There is only one change, but you are fairly different because your lines diverged a long time ago. Still, you are part of the same branch of the tree": the Native Americans who populated the Western Hemisphere originally came from Asia.

"there is more diversity in the average African village," Wells notes, "than there is outside of Africa combined."

2. Genetics Confirm Oral Traditions Of Druze In Israel
ScienceDaily (May 12, 2008) ? DNA analysis of residents of Druze villages in Israel suggests these ancient religious communities offer a genetic snapshot of the Near East as it was several thousands of years ago.

The Druze harbor a remarkable diversity of mitochondrial DNA types or lineages that appear to have separated from each other many thousands of years ago, according to a new study by multinational team, led by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Rappaport School of Medicine.

But instead of dispersing throughout the world after their separation, the full range of lineages can still be found within the small, tightly knit Druze population.

Technion researcher Karl Skorecki noted that the findings are consistent with Druze oral tradition suggesting the adherents came from diverse ancestral lineages "stretching back tens of thousands of years." The Druze represent a "genetic sanctuary" or "living relic" that provides a glimpse of the genetic diversity of the Near East in antiquity, the researchers write in the May 7th issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

But there is a modern twist to their story: the diversity of Druze mitochondrial DNA, which is the part of the genome that is passed on strictly through the maternal line, offers a unique opportunity for researchers to study whether people in different mitochondrial DNA lineages are predisposed to different kinds of diseases.

Dan Mishmar, a genetics researcher at Ben-Gurion University who was not involved with the study, said there is another "great advantage" to studying the link between disease and mitochondrial DNA variation in a group like the Druze. Although the Druze have great variety in their mitochondrial genome, the rest of their genome inherited from both paternal and maternal lines has grown less diverse as a result of thousands of years of intermarriage.

That means that researchers searching for genetic mutations linked to disease would have an easier time discerning whether these mutations are limited to the mitochondrial genome, which could help researchers design specific, targeted therapies, Mishmar explained.

The findings also guide the approach to screen for genetic disease among the Druze. Instead of scanning for disease-linked genes associated with an entire population--as is the case with Ashkenazi Jews, for example-it may make sense to screen within smaller groups. "Since they are comprised of so many distinct lineages, genetic disease may vary from clan to clan and village to village," Skorecki explained.

The researchers, including Druze co-authors Fuad Basis of the Rambam Medical Center and former Technion student Yarin Hadid, took genetic samples from 311 Druze households in 20 villages in Israel. They soon discovered an unusually high frequency of a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup-a distinct collection of genetic markers - called haplogroup X - among the Druze. Haplogroup X is found at low frequencies throughout the world, and is not confined to a specific geographical region as are most other mitochondrial DNA haplogroups.

Even more unusual, the Druze villages contained a striking range of variations on the X haplogroup. Together, the high frequency and high diversity of the X haplogroup "suggest that this population provides a glimpse into the past genetic landscape of the Near East, at a time when the X haplogroup was more prevalent," the researchers note.

How did the Druze become a genetic sanctuary in the Near East? The religious minority has lived for centuries in remote, mountainous regions, and unlike other monotheistic religions, the group has not sought converts since shortly after the "Dawa" or "revelation" of the religion in 1017 C.E. These factors, along with other cultural and political practices, may have kept the Druze a people apart for thousands of years, according to Skorecki and colleagues.

3. Graeme McChesney: Environment Influences Genetic Patterns!
Selected Articles, "Moses and Science"
From: Graeme McChesney <>
Hello Yair,
  thought this might be of interest to readers
The Ghost in your Genes             18/5/08
The following article was taken from The Covenant Report, Vol. 17, No 1,  a BIWF publication produced in New Zealand. My interest in this article is based on the statement that Moses made to the children of Israel. He said that if they would do these things, that is, the things he taught Israel in the five books of Moses,  they would "live".(Deut. 30.19) Since most of the directions he gave were for physical everyday problems then they apply to human beings both then and now and are related to our physical health and wellbeing. Also, God told him that He would visit the iniquity of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation of descendants. (Num 14.18 etc)

The latest edition of the book "None of these Diseases" highlights some of these admonitions but science is now demonstrating by experience that other things he said which have been enigmas til now, are also proving true.

That is, that our genetic make-up is affected by human behaviour and experience which in turn affects our descendants.

Science Explaining the Bible?  RN Phillips (BSC)

Science does indeed explain the Bible? occasionally. One of the notable instances was in 1996/7 when a paper presented at an international Gynaecology conference in Canberra gave an insight into Lev. 12.2-5.

Speak unto the children of Israel saying, If a woman has conceived seed and born a man child: then she shall be unclean 7 days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean? and she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days (33) ; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. ( A total of 40 days).

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks (14 days), as in her separation, and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying three score and six days (66). A total of 80 days.

The medical paper proclaimed that if a woman had intercourse within 90 days of the birth of a child it significantly increased the woman's risk of cervical cancer. Interestingly, cervical cancer is basically unheard of amongst communities of orthodox Jews (that is, followers of the Talmudic version of the Mosaic Law). No doubt, over time, Science will come to the same conclusion as the Bible with respect to the number of days of required abstinence.

 Another instance was the publication of the results of a detailed 10 year statistical study of the whole population of Busselton. WA. It showed that the Seventh Day Adventists, who eat no meat whatsoever, by far and away, the lowest instances of cardiovascular disease of any group in the town. Interestingly, CVD is also basically unheard of amongst communities of orthodox Jews (they eat only clean meat in accordance with the Talmudic Mosaic Law)
You can download the video "The Ghost in your Genes" from the internet] was an extraordinary documentary on TV from the Horizon program in GB titled: The Ghost in Your Genes. It is not about any holy ghost but about how the behaviour and circumstances of our ancestors, at least as far back as our grandparents, can have a direct bearing on your own health and longevity.

 The documentary explained why the grand expectations of the Human Genome Project [mapping the entire human genetic code] were unfulfilled. Science expected to find in the order of 100,000 genes that would have revealed the secrets of life and how to control diseases. The primary disappointment was that instead of finding 100,000, there were less than 30,000. This was not enough to explain the biological complexity of human beings ? in fact humans were found to have fewer genes than plants. This meant that something was missing; Something that would provide the requisite complexity to explain human biology. The documentary was about at least part of that missing something.

The first hint of what was missing was the astounding discovery by Professor Marcus Pembrey (Institute of Child Health at University College, London) that two very different, severely incapacitating birth defect diseases, Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome, were caused by exactly the same genetic fault.  -the deletion of a specific DNA sequence from chromosome 15. How could two very different diseases be caused by the same genetic fault? The answer is that if the deficient chromosome 15 comes from the father, then the child will have Prader-Willi syndrome, but if the deletion is on the chromosome that comes from the mother, the child will have Angelman syndrome. Up until this discovery, it was accepted wisdom that the genetic code in the body was securely locked away and apart from abnormal events, such as exposure to high doses or radiation and chance mutations that occur at conception, the code passed unchanged to the next generation and that sex linked inheritance was associated only with X and Y chromosomes. But here, for the first time, was absolute evidence that non sex chromosomes had "knowledge" of which parent they came from and showed different manifestations according to that heritage.  The question was, what could cause such a striking difference, especially when it involved an absence of something.

The assertion is that there is a tag or imprint placed on the genes during sperm and ova formation that shows the genes origin from the male or female parent. This is now called Genomic Imprinting. Thus there is more to inheritance than merely passing DNA sequences to the offspring. Something other than DNA also passes between the generations. Something that can switch genes on or off. The additional mechanism is called Epi-Genetics (epi meaning upon)  - which is the study of the factors that sit upon the genetic code to switch genes on or off. Epi- genetics is certainly a key component of the extra complexity that is needed to explain human biology.

The next interesting development came from Professor Wolf Reik, at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, who found that simply taking mice embryos out of their natural womb environment, and placing them in a culture dish and then returning them to the womb, is enough to switch certain mice genes on or off. But much more importantly, Reik also showed that the modified mouse genes, once switched off or on, stayed that way through numerous generations of mice descended from that one mother. The genes "remembered" the event and stayed in the new state and the new state was inherited through generation after generation.  It was not reset in the next generation. This observation established that the environment and the genes are inextricably intertwined.

Taking Reiks work into the field of in-vitro fertilization, it was found that the incidence of a very rare birth defect Bethwick- Wiedemann syndrome, was three to four times more common in IVF babies, babies that are conceived by placing an ovum and sperm in a culture dish, uniting them and then placing the new zygote in the mothers womb.

The climax of the documentary was the work of Professor Lars Olov Bygren, University of Umea, Sweden, and Professor Marcus Pembrey, investigating the population of Overkalix near the Arctic circle in Sweden. Overkalix is an extremely isolated community that has very detailed records of births, deaths and marriages and equally detailed and accurate harvest records stretching back over a number of generations. The investigation revealed, for example, that if ones grandfather had been subject to under nutrition at the time of puberty, the grandchild would have a shorter life span, and would typically die from diabetes or diabetes related diseases. This was historical (retrospective) proof of an environmental impact being carried forward to subsequent generations.

While this work was going on, Professor Rachael Yehuda,  Mt Sinai School of Medicine, NY, had found that children (male and female) of Holocaust survivors complained of stress related disorders that Yehuda and others ascribed to growing up in an environment where the horrors of the Holocaust were relived, over and over, in family story telling.  Subsequently, Yehuda, in conjunction with Professor Michael Seckl, Edinberg University (who had been investigating stress in pregnant women) studied a group of approximately 200 pregnant women who survived the 9/11 collapse of the twin towers: They found that:

Mothers who were in the third term trimester at the time of Sept 11 and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), gave birth to children with low cortisol levels (cortisol is a key component of the bodies ability to handle stress)

Mothers who were in the first or second trimester and also developed PTSD gave birth to children with normal cortisol levels.

Seckl had previously found in stress experiments in mice, that stressful events could change genes in the foetus (in the womb) and that this changed state could be subsequently inherited. This implies that the children of the Holocaust survivors may have developed a low cortisol change while in their mothers womb and the speculation is that it has been and will continue to be inherited by the offspring of the first post holocaust generation. The final proof for this phenomenon will come from studying the generations of children descended from the 9/11 mothers. This will be prospective proof based on the known cortisol history of each generation from the triggering event.

The consensus in the light of the documentary is that a female susceptible epi genetic effects at the time of development of her ovaries while in the womb (a human females entire life supply of ova is formed in the womb and they ripen one by one throughout the woman's adult life). Males are considered to be susceptible at puberty when the cells responsible for producing spermatozoa become active.

This conclusion implies that human male and female gametes are not affected by epi genetic events at other times.  However, as the actual "factors" that mediate the epi genetic mechanism are still unknown, there is the potential that epi genetic impacts could occur not only at male puberty, but at any time in life (which could affect the parent cells of male gametes, or the gametes themselves) or affect the utero development of future male and female children in the adult female. Therefore we should bear in mind that todays knowledge contains only the first rudimentary and necessarily coarse grains of understanding relative to what will be known in 10.20. 50 years from now.

At the other end of the spectrum unrelated to epi genetics is a relevant example of the impact of environment in what happens with bees eggs. When a queen bee lays an egg in the "standard shaped" wax cell, a worker bee will emerge which has a life span of six weeks. If the egg is removed with a pair of forceps and placed in a different shaped wax cell, called a queen cell, a new queen bee emerges and she has a life span of six years. The same egg, the same genes different environmental influences. Two dramatically different results.  While this is not an event which affects the bee's genome (because it is part of the standard bee biology)  it does give a graphic example of how a seemingly simple environmental change can impact a set of genes for a single generation.

Compare the single generation bee egg effect with the changes that Reik observed by simply taking the embryo of mice out of the womb and putting it back, without any intervention. Reik's action produced a change affecting future offspring. Hence epi genetics concerns changes or impacts to males and females that affect numerous future generations from that parent.

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