Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pieces of You: A Different Type of Immortality

Phill and I recently submitted out DNA to the National Genographic Project, a study of the human journey from Africa into other parts of the world. Why did we do this? Curiosity. We are both science geeks. I have done some genealogy of my family, and being able to add the genetic journey to that picture is something I wouldn’t mind passing on to my children. If we do both of us, we can give the three children both sides (sort of) of their genetic journey. What is the basis of this search? Based on studies of DNA markers from Y-chromosomes and mitochondria of indigenous populations across the world, the first human ancestor can be traced to Africa. The exodus of humans out of Africa can be tracked to about 60,000-90,000 years ago.

Phill’s DNA is being processed using chromosomal markers on his Y-chromosome. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Y-chromosomes are passed only through the male line. If you remember your high school biology class, male mammals have one X-Chromosome from the mother and one Y-from the father. Female mammals have two X-chromosomes.

My DNA was processed using my mitochondria from my cells. Mitochondria are called the power plants of animal cells. Mitochondria produce most of the chemical ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is used throughout the body for basic functions, like muscle contractions. Mitochondria have their own DNA, containing their own genetic information. All of us, regardless of our gender, have mitochondria in our cells. However, during sexual reproduction more mitochondria are contained in the egg than the sperm. This means that your mitochondria in your cells are from your mother. This is a way of tracking the female line of genetic markers.

We don’t have Phill’s results back yet; I’ll post them with his permission. This will hopefully be a in a few weeks. My results are back from the Genographic Project. I am from the Haplogroup H. About half of Europeans are of this haplogroup. The basic journey begins from Africa, around the area populated by the San Bushmen, whose language includes clicks.  The next stopping place is the northern Arabian Peninsula. From there the migration spreads to the northeastern side of the Black Sea. The migration leads to what is now Poland, and then to the eastern shores of the Black Sea. So, if you are a descendant of Jessie Free, you are part of this haplogroup. So we can sort of trace the line of our peoples back to the beginning. I should say female peoples. Now, that is immortality in a different way. You may end, but your genetic material lives on.

You can participate as well by purchasing your own kit. However, if you are a female descendant of Jessie Free, your results will be the same as mine. We share the same mitochondrial DNA as passed through her daughters.

The River of Life
By Thomas Campbell

The more we live, more brief appear
   Our life’s succeeding stages:
A day to childhood seems a year,
   And years like passing ages.

The gladsome current of our youth,
   Ere passion yet disorders,
Steals lingering like a river smooth
   Along its grassy borders.

But as the care-worn cheeks grows wan,
   And sorrow’s shafts fly thicker,
Ye stars, that measure life to man,
   Why seem your courses quicker?

When joys have lost their bloom and breath
   And life itself is vapid,
Why, as we reach the Falls of Death,
   Feel we its tide more rapid?

It may be strange—yet who would change
   Time’s course to slower speeding,
When one by one our friends have gone
   And left our bosoms bleeding?

Heaven gives our years of fading strength
   Indemnifying fleetness;
And those of youth, a seeming length,
   Proportion’d to their sweetness.

1 comment:

Kell said...

What a cool post. My sister just announced she's pregnant. Maybe the DNA kit would be a cool shower present. Let my mother buy onsies and diapers! pshaw!