Recreating the DNA of a deceased person or animal was hitherto not possible without extracting a sample from the remains. But, recently, an international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics — a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland — recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827 without any sample from the dead man.
This is the first time the DNA of a man who died nearly 200 years ago — identified as Hans Jonatan — has been recreated from his living descendants rather than the physical remains of the deceased person.
The man is more of an icon for the people in Iceland. He is well-known for his struggles: He freed himself from slavery and made his way to Iceland through a series of seemingly impossible events.
Researchers managed to recreate the DNA of Hans Jonatan by taking samples from 182 of his living descendants.
The team used the pieces they found to recreate a large part of Jonatan's DNA without using any of his tissue at all.
It helped them trace some of Jonatan's ancestry like his mother, who was an African slave on a plantation in St Croix, and they believe his father was a white European.
Kári Stefánsson of deCODE said: "It's all a question of the amount of data you have. In principle, it could be done anywhere with any ancestors, but what made it easy in Iceland was that there were no other Africans."
According to a report by Futurism, this kind of technology could help the researchers recreate the DNA of historical figures. Agnar Helgason of deCODE stated: "Any historical figure born after 1500 who has known descendants could be reconstructed."
Though the researchers believe there are still major hurdles to overcome in this field in terms of the potential future applications, they believe it will help in repairing and filling in spaces within family trees.
It could become a valuable historical tool that can give us an in-depth look at what life was like for historical figures such as Jonatan. In fact, with this process, scientists could genetically resurrect anyone and provide people with a more thorough understanding of their species.
The study has been published in Nature Genetics.