Students learn their DNA’s heritage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff reporter

Marcos Bustos knew his family was from Spain, but he had no idea they’d originally come from much farther east, probably from northern India. His classmate at Southwest Middle School, Maddy Ruble, knew her ancestors were Russian.

Both students got to see a map of the route their ancestors &045; going waaaay back. We’re talking about when they traveled up north, out of Africa.

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The two students participated in the Genographic Project of the National Geographic Society with their geography class.

The project analyzes DNA from hundreds of thousands of people, from indigenous populations to the general public, in hopes of revealing the history of human migration across the globe. Genetic mutations, markers in DNA, occur in certain sequences, allowing scientists to trace when and where groups of people broke off from each other.

Women have their lineage traced through mitochondrial DNA, and men have their markers traced using the Y chromosome.

Bustos and Ruble both had rare lineages found in 5 percent or less of the population.

In a PowerPoint slide presentation, middle school geography teacher Jennifer Vogt-Erickson explained the project and how the reliability of the results could be tested if Bustos and Ruble had relatives of the same gender also had their DNA analyzed.

About half the class volunteered to have their DNA tested, but just two names were drawn for the experiment.

&8220;I didn’t think I was Indian, I had a feeling, from Spain,&8221; Bustos said. &8220;My great-great-grandfather was one of the original people that came from Spain to Mexico, he was very rich, but he wasted all his money.&8221;

Bustos wasn’t sure how far back that ancestor was, but until now he didn’t know anything about his ancestry prior to that great-great-grandfather.

Ruble knew her family came from Russia and France, so the results weren’t a surprise to her. She didn’t know that her family originally came from Africa, about 45,000 or 50,000 years ago, though.

Originally, everyone’s ancestors came from Africa, and migrated all around the world, according to the project’s research.

After the kids swabbed the inside of their cheeks with a Q-tip shaped like a toothbrush, they waited two or three months for the results. Both would tell others to participate in the project.

(Contact Kari Lucin at or 379-3444.)