We are pleased to tell you that we have just submitted our first scientific paper about the project. The main function of this paper is to announce PoBI to the scientific world and in it we show that, even with a relatively small number of samples and a few genetic markers, the samples we collected should be sufficient to detect genetic differences across the UK. [. . .]Last newsletter (pdf):
One aspect that is of particular interest is the surnames we collected and we have spent some time with our collaborators at UCL (Professor Paul Longley and his group) dividing them into local and non-local surnames. The figure on the left shows a couple of examples. The idea is that individuals whose surname is local to an area are more likely to have family in that area for many generations than individuals whose surnames are found all over the country. This is obviously a generalisation, but it does seem that there are some genetic differences between sets of volunteers with local surnames and sets with non-local surnames and we are really looking forward to analysing all the data rather than just the small subset we have been studying so far. [. . .]
Our next priority is to analyse the 1.3 million genetic markers that have been typed on 3,000 of our volunteers [. . .] The data we analyse from these samples should shed light on the genetic impact of the different historical incursions into Britain. It is an extremely large data set and so it will take a while to analyse and write up. As mentioned in our last newsletter, 100 of our samples are having their complete DNA sequenced by the 1,000 Genomes Project (www.1000genomes.org) and it should not be too long before that very valuable information becomes available to us. [. . .]
As you will know from the last newsletter, the Wellcome Trust has given us funding for a further five years to look for genes involved in normal traits. The main focus is on facial features, but other traits include handedness, taste perception and skin colour. We have been going back to our volunteers to collect these data. We take 3D photographs of each volunteer’s face in order to identify genes involved in the control of particular facial features. Over the last 18 months, we have collected 475 such photographs and are beginning to analyse them with our collaborators in Surrey (Professor Josef Kittler and his group).
There is a great deal of interest in the genetics of facial features and, in addition, the frequency of genetic variants for facial features may well differ significantly between different parts of the UK. We will also be collecting data on a variety of other normal features including height, hair and skin colour, handedness, milk tolerance, musical preferences and perfect pitch, taste and smell preferences and features of the hand.