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The name game

It?s a no-brainer that people who share last names usually share genes as well. I, for one, am often asked if I?m related to the Indian cricket player Sourav Ganguly. (Sadly, no.) But now there?s a scientific linkurl:study;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16488872&query_hl=8&itool=pubmed_docsum to back up such questions. The research, which focuses on paternal lineages, verifies what we all would have guessed: that sharing a surname inc

By | February 21, 2006

It?s a no-brainer that people who share last names usually share genes as well. I, for one, am often asked if I?m related to the Indian cricket player Sourav Ganguly. (Sadly, no.) But now there?s a scientific linkurl:study;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16488872&query_hl=8&itool=pubmed_docsum to back up such questions. The research, which focuses on paternal lineages, verifies what we all would have guessed: that sharing a surname increases the probability of sharing a Y-chromosomal haplogroup. And the rarer your name, the more likely it is you are genuinely related. Researchers from genetics and history departments in British universities advertised nationally to pull together a collection of 150 men with distinct surnames. The team compared 11 binary markers in the Y chromosomes of these men to those of a specially recruited set of 150 with surnames that matched one to one with those of the first group. They found that 47% of pairs with the most common last names shared a haplogroup, while the number jumped to 69% among the men with low-frequency surnames. Beyond simply bolstering the Name Game?Relatives Edition, the scientists suggest a surname-based forensic database that would match unidentified DNA crime samples to their likely last names to help create a pool of suspects. The authors estimate that a database containing about 39,000 of the least common names with their Y chromosome profiles could help solve up to 10 murders and 57 rapes in the UK per year. I?d imagine these methods would be less effective in a country like the U.S., where family lines seem to be much more entangled. But it?s an interesting exercise for Britain, no doubt, and at the very least a powerful deterrent for potential criminals named Titterington, Beeby, or Swinfield.
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