Irish Research Council-funded scholar sequences first ancient Irish human genomes
Posted: 7 January, 2016
A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen’s University Belfast has sequenced the first genomes from ancient Irish humans with the information buried within already answering pivotal questions about the origins of Ireland’s people and their culture.
The team, including Irish Research Council-funded scholar Lara Cassidy, sequenced the genome of an early farmer woman, who lived near Belfast some 5,200 years ago, and those of three men from a later period, around 4,000 years ago in the Bronze Age, after the introduction of metalworking. Their landmark results were published recently in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ireland has intriguing genetics. It lies at the edge of many European genetic gradients with world maxima for the variants that code for lactose tolerance, the western European Y chromosome type, and several important genetic diseases including one of excessive iron retention, called haemochromatosis. However, the origins of this heritage are unknown. The only way to discover our genetic past is to sequence genomes directly from ancient people, by embarking on a type of genetic time travel.