Scientists in China have used the blood of a direct descendant of Genghis Khan to sequence the genome of an ethnic Mongolian for the first time.


The milestone sequencing was announced Dec. 18 by scientists from Inner Mongolia Agricultural University (IMAU), Inner Mongolia University for the Nationalities (IMUN) and BGI, which credits itself as "the world's largest genomics organization." The scientists said this sequencing of the Mongolian genome will help them address genetic differences and genetic diseases among the Mongolian people.


The name of the man whose DNA was sequenced was not given, but he was identified as a 34th-generation descendant of Genghis Khan and a member of the Mongolian royal family. He is said to be a member of the Sunit Tribe that lives in the Xilingol prefecture of Inner Mongolia. The scientists said this man has a fully defined family pedigree that dates back to the 13th-century Mongolian empire and his family line shows "no background of intermarriage between other ethnic groups," according to professor Huanmin Zhou, project investigator and director of science and technology at IMAU.


With this first genome under its belt, the team plans to expand its database with further samples to enhance research of Mongolian health.


According to the Xinhua news agency, there are about 10 million ethnic Mongolians around the world, living in Mongolia, China and Russia.


Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It borders the country of Mongolia, which sits along Inner Mongolia's northern border. The Mongolian people are a minority in Inner Mongolia.


Genghis Khan was one of the world's great conquerors. He founded the Mongol Empire, which continued to grow after his death in 1227, becoming history's largest contiguous empire. The empire was extended by his descendants, eventually encompassing more than 9 million square miles before it fell in 1368.


The Great Khan, as he was sometimes known, was also one of the world's more productive breeders. A study released in 2003 revealed that 8 percent of the males living in the regions of the former Mongolian Empire carried a nearly identical Y chromosome, suggesting that they were all direct descendants of Genghis Khan and his many sons. According to the study, as many as 0.5 percent of all males on the planet today may be descendants of Genghis Khan.


Also on MNN: Was Genghis Khan history's greenest conqueror?

DNA of Genghis Khan's descendant sequenced in Inner Mongolia
Work by Chinese scientists is the first complete sequencing of the Mongolian genome.