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Dartmouth researcher finds novel genetic patterns that make us rethink biology and individuality
Date:11/7/2013

thin?" says Williams, the study's senior author, and founding Director of the Center for Integrative Biomedical Sciences in iQBS. "What makes you a person? Is it your memory? Your genes?" He continues, "We have always thought, 'your genome is your genome.' The data suggest that it is not completely true."

In the past, it was always thought that each person contains only one DNA sequence (genetic constitution). Only recently, with the computational power of advanced genetic analysis tools that examine all the genes in one individual, have scientists been able to systematically look for this somatic variation. "This study is an example of the type of biomedical research project that is made possible by bringing together interdisciplinary teams of scientists with expertise in the biological, computational and statistical sciences." says Jason Moore, Director of the iQBS, who is also Associate Director for Bioinformatics at the Cancer Center, Third Century Professor, and Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Geisel.

Having multiple genotypes from mutations within one's own body is somewhat analogous to chimerism, a condition in which one person has cells inside his or her body that originated from another person (i.e., following an organ or blood donation; or sometimes a mother and childor twinsexchange DNA during pregnancy. Also, occasionally a person finds out that, prior to birth, he or she had a twin who did not survive, whose genetic material is still contained within their own body).2 Chimerism has resulted in some famous DNA cases: one in which a mother had genetic testing that "proved" that she was unrelated to two of her three biological sons.3

Williams says that, although this was a small study, "there is a lot more going on than we thought, and the results are, in some ways, astoundingly weird."

Because somatic changes are thought to happen at random, scientists do not expect unrelated people
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Contact: Derik Hertel
derik.hertel@dartmouth.edu
603-650-1203
The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Source:Eurekalert

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