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People of the British Isles

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People of the British Isles (PoBI) is an ongoing population genetics project based at the University of Oxford. The project began in 2004 and is ongoing. It is being funded by the Wellcome Trust, and is currently on a second five-year grant. The project is led Professor Sir Walter Bodmer. Bruce Winney is the Project Manager

Project data

So far the project has taken around 4,500 blood samples from people in the UK. The people sampled, from the whole of the United Kingdom, must have four grandparents who lived in the same rural area as themselves. Although based at the University of Oxford, samples have been collected by a number of other British universities, and data shared. An approximately equal number of male and female were collected, with a median age at collection of 65 years.

Despite the name of the project, sampling is restricted to the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). A separate and unrelated project known as the Irish DNA Atlas Project is investigating the genetic make up of the whole of Ireland.[1]

The project looks at around 600,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (genetic markers), including genes on the Y chromosome and in mitochondrial DNA. The project is run in collaboration with Professor Peter Donnelly at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. Blood samples (20ml each) are collected from each volunteer and the peripheral blood lymphocytes separated off and frozen down. DNA is prepared from the blood residue and is the DNA source for the analysis. Once this source of DNA has run out for an individual sample, a cell line can be created from the lymphocytes, which ensures a permanent source of DNA for further work. A number of normal phenotypes are now being collected for each volunteer, including three-dimensional face photographs. Analysis of this data set is being undertaken in collaboration with Professor Josef Kittler of the University of Surrey.

In an initial pilot project,[2] the genetic markers that were chosen included:

  • HLA - human leukocyte antigen, the human major histocompatibility complex including HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C and HLA-DQ, HLA-DR
  • the ABO blood group system
  • MC1R
  • the Y-chromosome


Most of southern, eastern and central England has shown very close genetic similarity with modern populations in the Low Countries, Germany and Denmark, which has been interpreted as representing a major contribution by the Anglo-Saxons, while the populations of areas such as Wales and Cornwall are closer to populations of modern-day western France. [3]

Research papers


  • Mckie Robin. Face of Britain: How Our Genes Reveal the History of Britain. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Videos, DVDs and radio

Garrett Hellenthal gave a presentation on the People of the British Isles Project at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015. A recording of the lecture is available on YouTube from the link below.

Other videos that might be of interest include:


External links

See also


  1. Irish DNA Atlas Project launched., 24 November 2011.
  2. Winney, B. J., Boumertit, A., Day, T., Davison, D., Echeta, C., Evseeva, I., et al. (2012). People of the British Isles: preliminary analysis of genotypes and surnames in a UK-control population. European journal of human genetics : EJHG, 20(2), 203–210. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2011.127
  3. Keeling, Judith (2013). "What makes the British?" in Oxford Today, Trinity Term 2013, Volume 25, Number 2, pp26-28.

GNU head This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "People of the British Isles".