Usually, to generate the DNA of an individual, part of the person’s physical remains, the tissue or anything is used. But now, a group of researchers from deCODE Genetics were able to achieve this by studying Jonathan’s relatives. Hans Jonathan according to a report in ‘New Scientist’ was an African who escaped slavery, went to live in Iceland where he got married and had two children before he eventually died in 1827.
The researchers were able to track down 788 members of Jonathan’s family line, thanks to Iceland’s genealogical records. They were also able to analyse DNA samples from 182 of his descendants, this helped them to create 38% of his mother’s genome which is 19% of his own DNA. From this, the researchers were able to infer that Jonathan’s mother was likely from Nigeria, Benin or Cameroon in West Africa.
Futurism reports that although this is an amazing achievement being the first of its kind, other researchers from other parts of the world do not think it can be replicated for every dead person. Jonathan was the first African to settle in Iceland and only his family thrived before 1920, meaning his case was unique. This is because it was easier to trace down the DNA of his family tree among other Icelanders.
On the other hand, deCODE thinks the same method can be used to create the DNA of figures who lived before 1,500 and have known descendants.
It’s all a question of the amount of data you have. In principle, it could be done anywhere with any ancestors, but what made it easy in Iceland was that there were no other Africans.
As the development of this technique continues, it could be used to fill very important gaps in a family tree and to have an idea of people who had lived centuries ago.
deCODE genetics, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company based in Reykjavík, Iceland. The company was founded in 1996 by Kári Stefánsson to identify human genes associated with common diseases using population studies, and apply the knowledge gained to guide the development of candidate drugs. The company isolated genes believed to be involved in cardiovascular disease, cancer and schizophrenia, among other diseases (the company’s research concerning the latter is said to represent the first time a gene has been identified by two independent studies to be associated with schizophrenia).