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From Lost Empires to Precision Medicine Using DNA Bio-localization Tools

May 1, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Location:1200 Richcraft Hall
Key Contact:Paul Villeneuve

Candidate:     Dr. Eran Elhaik


Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

From Lost Empires to Precision Medicine Using DNA Bio-localization Tools

The rapid evolution of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies and the plummeting costs of genome sequencing created BIG DATA that pervade healthcare across all stages of life and prompted the rise of personalized medicine, citizen science, and direct-to-consumer tests that share the same thirst for tools that can make sense from the data. Bio-localization tools are in the nexus of such fields as well as anthropology, archeology, linguistics, and history. In 2014 (Elhaik et al. Nature Communications), we developed the Geographic Population Structure (GPS), an accurate biolocalization tool that utilizes the relationship between admixture and geography to predict the most recent geographical locations of individuals, down to home village in some cases, with a resolution of up to 1,000 years. The power of the GPS technology was recently demonstrated by the finding of ancient Ashkenaz (Das et al. Genome Biology and Evolution). The availability of ancient DNA prompted us to embark on the question of the Eurasia colonization over the past 14,000 years. For that, we developed the ancient GPS, which is similar in principle to GPS, but designed for ancient DNA. Applied to a genomic dataset of over 300 ancient Eurasians (Pleistocene-Late Iron Age), aGPS localized ~50% of the individuals within 0-200km from their burial site and ~32% within 200-1,000km, with an overall average accuracy of 525km. Remarkably, the chronological evaluation of aGPS predictions reveals the story of Eurasia settlement since the Pleistocene for the first time. Our bio-localization tools allow addressing long standing questions in science and have demonstrable commercial, public, government, and academic applications.