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Thread: Faces of Three Ancient Egyptians Brought to Life Using 2,000-Year-Old DNA

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    Faces of Three Ancient Egyptians Brought to Life Using 2,000-Year-Old DNA

    Reston, VA — At the 32nd International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI), being held this week in Orlando, FL, Parabon NanoLabs will unveil for the first time the predicted faces of three ancient mummies from an ancient Nile community in Egypt known as the Abusir el-Meleq. The mummy samples, estimated to be between 2,023 and 2,797 years old, were processed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tubingen in Germany (Schuenemann et al. 2017).1 Enzymatic damage repair was performed on each sample, after which they were sequenced with a capture assay targeting 1.24 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and aligned to the human reference genome. Parabon used the resulting whole-genome sequencing data, which is publicly available in the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA), and selected three samples with the highest quality data to analyze. The company believes this is the first time comprehensive DNA phenotyping has been performed on human DNA of this age, and the results are being presented to the forensic community in ISHI poster

    This work was made possible by recent bioinformatic advances in the field of low-coverage imputation, which allows for highly accurate determination of common SNP genotypes from low-coverage sequencing data. The sequencing coverages for the three mummy samples were only 0.13X, 0.23X, and 0.96X, respectively, meaning that each position in the genome was covered less than one time on average. Because individuals have two copies of each SNP, only 0.1%, 0.3%, and 2.8% of the SNPs, respectively, could be directly called from the data, which would not be enough information for phenotype prediction or for traditional imputation. With low-coverage imputation, however, the SNP call rates jumped to 29%, 39%, and 65%, respectively. Parabon bioinformaticist and WGS analyst, Dr. Janet Cady, who spearheaded the work, is enthusiastic about the results. "Parabon has been the leader in forensic microarray analysis for years, and with the introduction of this new imputation technology, we can now handle even the most challenging samples, ancient or forensic" she said.

    Janet Cady, Mark Wilson, and Ellen Greytak/Parabon NanoLabs, Inc.

    Data From: Schuenemann et al. 2017
    Last edited by David Bush; 09-18-2021 at 07:37 PM.

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