Microscopic Clues in Our Own DNA?

By Newswire Services
June 7, 2005
Can Microscopic Clues in our Own DNA Link Every man on Earth Back to One Common Ancestor?

Join National Geographic Channel?s EXPLORER on a Scientific Search for Adam. Episode Documents Basis for Landmark ?Genographic Project? ? A Quest to Map Humankind?s Migratory Journey Around the Globe in Largest DNA Project in History.

Where did we all come from? Are there genetic clues that point to one single male ancestor? Could Bono be related to Nelson Mandela? Tiger Woods to David Beckham? Osama bin Laden to the Dalai Lama? And if this common ancestor existed, where did he live, and what did he look like?

On Sunday, June 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, the National Geographic Channel?s (NGC?s) signature series EXPLORER: Search for Adam joins renowned scientists as they follow the genetic DNA trail of our ancestors to solve one of the greatest questions of all time: was there actually an Adam, an ancient man that all men today are descended from? This landmark project poised at the crossroads of science and humanity itself offers a chance to find a genetic Adam, a single ancestor whose DNA survives in every man on earth.

Three of the world?s most dominant religions ? Christianity, Islam and Judaism ? all believe one man fathered us all. EXPLORER: Search for Adam follows National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells, a leading population geneticist, as he sets out to show us there was an Adam. Wells uses the latest DNA testing technology to take viewers on an extraordinary journey across the globe as he traces humanity?s family tree.

?The Y-chromosome links the men of today to the men who lived in the past,? said Wells. ?This tiny piece of DNA allows us to travel back in time through humanity?s history, and use DNA to link billions of men alive back to one ancestor. The Y-chromosome can trace the origins of men from all over the world.?

Tracing the DNA history of historical icons such as Thomas Jefferson leads to surprising results. Jefferson?s Y-chromosome can be traced back not to Europe, but surprisingly to the Middle East, to what is now Lebanon and Syria. This discovery shows that what we look like may not really tell us where we come from, and it raises a question mark over the traditional image of Adam.

As we follow Wells from Central Asia to South Africa to Siberia, he traces the Y-chromosome backwards through the generations of the branches of man?s family tree. The tree begins to coalesce into a single trunk, pointing to a single Adam who Wells believes lived around 60,000 years ago, in Africa. And using this discovery, EXPLORER attempts to unmask Adam with computer generated imaging to determine what he might have looked like.

?Effectively, we are all members of an extended family,? added Wells. ?We?re all really cousins.?

In partnership with National Geographic and IBM, Wells recently launched The Genographic Project, a landmark five-year global research project to map humankind?s migratory journey around the globe. The project aims to collect and analyze DNA from over 100,000 indigenous people around the world, as well as asking anyone else to participate.

?Our DNA carries the story of how we migrated out of Africa, and over the next five years we?ll be deciphering the details,? said Wells. ?This enormous undertaking will give us the story that is shared by everyone.?

Information about The Genographic Project and how you can participate can be found at www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic under ?how to participate? and ?purchase a participation kit.?

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