Tue, Nov 26, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Justice minister `out of Africa,' claims TV geneticist

IN THE GENES In Taiwan to promote his new show, Spencer Wells gave Chen Ding-nan and other celebrities the microscopic low-down on their long-lost ancestors

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan's (陳定南) ancestors originated in Africa 60,000 years ago, according to the results of a genetic study revealed yesterday by world-renowned population geneticist Spencer Wells.

Chen was among seven people in Taiwan selected by Wells and his research team to have their DNA collected and advance his research project in tracing humanity's path.

"Based on the result of the study, it shows that Chen might also have a percentage of European lineage as his ancestors migrated out of Africa into the Central Asia area before settling down in East Asia," said Wells, head of the Population Genetics Center in Cambridge, UK, at a press conference yesterday.

Wells is also the host of the National Geographic program The Journey of Man, showing on Dec. 15.

The press conference yesterday introduced The Journey of Man exhibition, which will open today at the National Science and Technology Museum in Kaohsiung and is scheduled to run until Dec. 22. The exhibition will then move to Taipei City for a two-week run.

Wells explained how he and his team traced Chen's ancestry from his DNA samples.

All humans carry DNA that is a combination of their parents' genes, said Well, adding that the DNA comes packaged in 23 separate bundles comprised of two chromosomes.

"The Y chromosome is handed down father to son and is never altered by being combined with a woman's DNA, except in the case of mutation," explained Wells. "In other words, in the absence of a mutation, a man's Y chromosome will perfectly mirror that of his father, his grandfather and every male in his family going back for thousands of years."

It is by comparing Y chromosomes with more than hundreds of DNA samples collected from 163 different populations that Wells and his research colleagues from Cambridge and Stanford University can prove the "out of Africa" theory.

Based on the result of his study, Wells concluded that each and every person on this planet is of a connected family of man, originated in Africa.

Writer Hou Wen-yung (侯文詠) -- another of the seven selected Taiwanese people -- also received the result of his DNA sample study.

According to Wells, it suggested that Hou's ancestors migrated to East Asia from Africa some 60,000 years ago along the same route as Chen's.

"The findings are amazing," said Hou, adding that he is proud to be among those selected for the research.

Although they have yet to receive their DNA results, Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), singer and songwriter Wang Li-hong (王力宏), TV variety show host Tong Chih-cheng (董至成) and the two members of the rock band Power Station (動力火車) were the other five researched by Wells and his group.

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