When the first Viking explorers began settling Iceland, none could have imagined that their descendants would pioneer the future of modern medicine by surveying the human genome. Fast forward 1000 years to today, when an Icelandic company has revealed its success in sequencing the largest-ever set of human genomes from a single population.
The new wealth of genetic data has already begun changing our understanding of human evolutionary history. It also sets the stage for a new era of preventive medicine based on individual genetic risks for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The milestone in genome sequencing comes from deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Reykjavík, Iceland. Their work, published as four papers in the 25 March 2015 issue of the journal Nature Genetics, has yielded new insights about the common human ancestor for the male Y chromosome—narrowed to somewhere between 174,000 and 321,000 years ago—based on their latest calculation of human mutation rates.