Pune: "Next generation sequencing will throw open a new branch of medicine as we can identify the diseases and take preventive measures,” said Prof Turi King, reader at Leicester University, United Kingdom.
A professor in genetics and archeology, Prof Turi, who is working on the complete genome sequencing of the last English king Richard III was in the city as part of Great Britain Campaign facilitated by British Council of India.
Prof Turi said, “Tracing the male line with Y chromosomes and surnames is relatively easy compared to mitochondrial which is passed down only to the female line. Generally, females change their names after marriage and thus it gets difficult to track down the common ancestors."
"I got interested in archeology and anthropology during my stay at Cambridge,” she said, adding, “Richard III was the last English king and was killed in the battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485 and probably buried on August 25. We carried out the excavation at the Grey Fyers in 2012, which is today a car park and found his skeleton. No record or painting of Richard III was present anywhere."
"The unusual thing about the skeleton was it had its head moved on to the left side and left hand was on the right hand. May be he had a hurried burial,” she said, adding that there was a severe injury mark on his head.
"Richard III had no direct descendants but we could track down some of his descendants: his nephews, nieces, cousins and so on,” she said.
“The probability of having blue eyes and blond hair was 96% and 77% respectively. Michael Ibsen is known to be related to Richard III through the female line and acted as a comparator for the identification of Richard III using mitochondrial DNA.
“At the end of the project, Richard III's genome will be made available online as a resource. It is hoped that it will be become a resource for everyone including scientists, medical historians, microbiologists, teachers, students and the general public as a way of learning about genetics," she said.
Dr Turi King is carrying out this project in collaboration with Professor Michael Hofreiter at the University of Potsdam.
The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust and Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys.
An inter-disciplinary science
Prof Turi said, “I get dozens of emails from people from various parts of the world to know about their ancestors. The area of research involves history, science, archeology, genetics, microbiologists and geography among others.”
She added that Richard III was suffering from scoliosis (abnormal lateral curvature of spine).