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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leading Hospital Researcher in DNA: Rambam in Haifa

There are more than 6.8 billion people on earth, and Jews make up less than 1% of them. This is as of November 2009. All together we have about 13 million Jews in the whole world. Despite that, we're making our mark in dna research.

When I moved to Israel in 1980, I had to take a 10 month retraining course in order to receive my teaching certificate needed to teach English as a Foreign/Second Language. Just before my big three hour final, I fell on my right elbow, broke it and the connecting bone and was taken in a rickety car to Rambam. There three doctors operated for three hours and put my elbow back together again. I learned the Hebrew phrase, Co-ev lee (there is pain to me).

Imagine how thrilled I am to see that my favorite dna researcher, Doron Behar, author of so many dna papers, is from the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, and he is leading research about humans that is so interesting. He is associated with Saharon Rosset of IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and Tel Aviv University.

Humans or Homo Sapiens began in Africa early in the Stone Age. Studies have been done on the female dna (mitochondiral DNA) and an Eve was found to have lived about 200,000 years ago. We had separated into small populations in the early stone age period, called the Paleolithic period. This was about 10,000 BCE or 12,000 years ago. I feel that this may have been mostly family groupings. Who else are you going to trust in those days? We were in very small groups even before this time since Eve was pre-Paleolithic. However, Adam lived about 60 thousand years ago and this is when M haplogroup started and the mtdna haplogroup of N and T started.

Sometime between 90,000 and 150,000 years ago, a new study of mitochondrial (female) dna of the Khoi and San people in South Africa shows that they diverged from other people. All the small bands of people suffered from drought in East Africa, and the numbers may have fallen to only 2,000 people about 70,000 years ago. This is from a study through Stanford U. Then in the Stone Age they banded together again and their numbers increased. 70 thousand years ago it is thought that abstract thinking and the origins of language started. Finally about 60,000 years ago they started migrating out of Africa. Now they could argue about where to go.

25 thousand years ago the Neanderthals died out. the Ydna R2 started as well as the mtdna J and x haplogroups.

The Mesolithic Stone Age period is a middle time 12,000-9,000 years ago. R1a haplogroup started. The mtdna groups of V and T also started. This was a time that light skinned Europeans were being created. The later Stone Age period, Neolithic Period, introduced agriculture and was only 11/9,000 years ago. This gives you an idea of all that was happening to people before they even got to the Stone Age and started using tools, etc.

Paleontologist Meave Leakey commented that the extremes of climate reduced our numbers so that we were on the very edge of extinction.

Now we just have to worry that atomic weapons in the hands of beligerant dictators can do the same thing; wipe so many of us out. Iran has threatened Israel and this threat hangs over its population daily. After going through a recent holocaust from the WWII, Jews were just about completely wiped out by losing over 6 million. They don't want this to happen again.

The AMOVA phenomenon is something they have discovered that means that the environment makes the initial changes in DNA and then heredity transmits them. There is a Middle East type Amova and this cuts across haplogroup distinctions. So environment affects our children and their genes. This would include food and water as well as air, I suppose.

1/31/10: PS The website this information came from is in question. I need further investigation of this phenomenon. The governor of California has just ordered an investigation in a town that has a hazardous waste facility owned by chemical Waste Management Inc. because five out of twenty children (0.25) born in one year suffer from facial defects. One would think that the environment may be the cause. I suppose this would be an example of AMOVA if the five children have children and they inherit the facial birth defects. We can suffer from environmental events such as the Hiroshima bombing, but this is not necessarily an inherited factor.

2/2/10 There is also something called epigenetics started in the 1980's by Swedish Dr. Lars Bygren who discovered that what happens to males and females can affect their offspring and possibly their offspring genetically. He discovered that periods of gluttony caused the offspring and the next generation to have shorter life spans. The genes are affected by cellular material-the epigenome-that sits on top of the genome just outside it which tell genes to switch on or off. Environmental factors like diet, stress and prenatal nutrition can make imprints on genes that is passed from one generation to the next. It makes me wonder about Holocaust survivors of the camps who managed to have children. What has happened to their offspring?

Abraham and Sarah lived about 4,000 years ago. They seem to be very contemporary being we humans have been living for about 196,000 years trying to get to look and act just right. After looking around me, I think we're still a work in progress.

Reference: from 4/24/2008
Book: DNA & Genealogy by Colleen Fitzpatrick & Andrew Yeiser
Time Magazine January 18, 2010 ( page 48-53

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