Who, what, and where are A, C, G, and T, and what in the world do they have to do with your ancestry? Those letters represent our own genome’s particular alphabet of chemical subunits whose sequence is fundamental to how we each develop and function as living organisms, “the book” passed from one generation to the next that reveals, precisely, where—and who—you've come from. This unique course will introduce you to, well, you.
To participate fully, students should order the “Ancestry Only” personal genome service from 23andMe no later than March 27, 2017. The service (estimated cost as of 1/2017: $99) will detail a significant fraction of the genetic variations within your genome, and these will be explored in the second part of the course. It is important to read closely the terms of service and privacy statement at 23andMe prior to registering, and to consider the possible effects of learning such information.
First, we’ll explore the connection between our unique human genome sequence and what it reveals about our regions of origin. The instructor will survey how genomes vary between individuals, how to identify variations that trace to particular regions, and how this information may be used to estimate when, genetically speaking, an ancestor from a region distinct from that of the majority of our ancestors became a family member.
Later, we will focus on identifying and detailing the Neanderthal-derived gene variants that most of us carry, as well as exploring your ancestors’ regions of origin. Using the 23andMe data, you will estimate when ancestors from far afield entered the family lineage.
The final session will be dedicated to using your genome sequence to illuminate relationships with your contemporary relatives, including how to identify genetic similarity between a parent and child; what that looks like in contrast to genetic similarities with siblings, uncles/aunts, or cousins; and why this matters not only for confirming known associations, but also for explaining similarities and differences among siblings. In addition, we will investigate what the potential for second, third, fourth, and fifth cousins may mean.
David Matthes is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning and the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota. A recipient of the College of Biological Science's Most Engaging Professor Award and the Dagley-Kirkwood Undergraduate Education Award, Matthes is a pioneer in the development of courses in which students have their genome sequenced and conduct hands-on explorations of the data.