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    Highlights                             by W. Wertelecki, MD                     December 1999    
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Ancestry and the Y Chromosome
Lemba Africans - Cohen Jews - Native Americans - Siberians

"The Lemba, a Bantu-speaking people of southern Africa have a tradition that they were led out of Judea by a man named Buba ..." reports Nicholas Wade for the New York Times (May 9, 1999). The scientific exploration of this tradition apparently originates from the interest of Dr. K. Skorecki, a kidney transplant expert from Israel who also is a priest or cohen (a hereditary caste different from rabbis and who hold the belief that they are descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses). To explore the descent of the priestly order, Dr. Skorecki contacted Dr. M. F. Hammer, an expert in human population genetics and Y chromosome (Nature 385:32, 1997). In 1997, Hammer and associates found significant DNA pattern differences between priests and laymen, a distinction equally recognizable among Askhenazic and Sephardic priests. The study was expanded in search of a "better Jewish DNA signature" or "cohen genetic signature" of Jewish populations. Investigated were DNA Y chromosome sequences (three stable and six variable regions). The "cohen signature" was significantly more common among Ashkenazic and Sephardic priests than in the general Jewish population. Among the Lemba priests, the "signature" was also significantly higher than among other members of this Bantu speaking African clan. Other investigations sustain the view that present day Cohenim males hold a common ancestry. (M G Thomas et al Nature 394:138,1998. A B Spurdle and T Jenkins Am. J. Hum. Genet. 59: 1126, 1996).

Other international research teams investigated Y chromosome markers to trace the origins of Native Americans. According to Dr. T. M. Karafet et al. (Am. J. Hum. Genet. 64: 817, 1999), 14 unique Y chromosome haplotypes are unevenly distributed among global populations. These investigators propose two New World founder haplotypes and suggest that more than one paternal migration to America took place from the regions of Lake Baikal in Siberia.

An Argentine team led by Dr. N. Bianchi from La Plata contends that "Native American Adam" lived some 20,000 years ago and is the paternal ancestor of nearly 85% of native Americans. Another team led by Dr. P. Underhill from Stanford University arrived at similar conclusions. (N O Bianchi et al Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 102:79, 1997)

Williams Syndrome

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21/January/2002 dc