University of Leicester geneticist Dr Turi King found a match between DNA from the skeleton and two direct descendents of Richard III on the female line.
The modern DNA work was carried out by Dr Turi King at the University of Leicester. Dr Turi King carried out the ancient DNA analysis in dedicated ancient DNA facilities at the University of York, in the lab of Professor Michael Hofreiter with Gloria Gonzales Fortes, and travelled to the Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse to work with Dr Patricia Balaresque and Laure Tonasso and where the work was independently verified.
This was checked with mitochondrial DNA from the two female-line descendents - Canadian-born furniture maker Michael Ibsen and a second person who wishes to remain anonymous.
Their link with Richard III was verified by a genealogical study led by University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Kevin Schürer.
Dr Turi King said: “The aim of our part of the project is to use DNA evidence to help identify the skeletal remains found at the Grey Friars site: does the DNA analysis corroborate the archaeological evidence and point to these being the remains of Richard III?
“The first step was to determine if the two female line relatives – Michael Ibsen and a second person who wishes to remain anonymous - shared the same mitochondrial DNA sequences. The analysis showed that these two individuals shared the same relatively rare mitochondrial DNA sequence.
“We then had to see if it was even possible to retrieve ancient DNA from the Grey Friars skeleton. DNA breaks down over time and how quickly this happens is very dependent on the burial conditions. Therefore, we were extremely pleased to find that we could obtain a DNA sample from the skeletal remains.
“Finally, the DNA sequence obtained from the Grey Friars skeletal remains was compared with the two maternal line relatives of Richard III. We were very excited to find that there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the family of Richard the Third and the skeletal remains we found at the Grey Friars dig.
“Like a forensic case, the DNA evidence must be assessed alongside the other evidence. Here the results of the archaeological and osteological analysis, combined with the genealogical and genetic evidence make for a strong and compelling case that these are indeed the remains of Richard III.
In addition, the researchers are hoping to compare the skeleton’s DNA with descendents down the male line.
To do this, they will need to obtain Y chromosome data – the male sex chromosome. Preliminary analysis of the DNA confirmed that these are indeed the remains of a male and so researchers are hopeful that they will be able to analyse the Y chromosome.
“A number of the men identified as descendents of Edward III through his son John of Gaunt - who would both have shared the same Y chromosome as Richard III - have been kind enough to donate their DNA to our project.
“The analysis of their DNA is complete and I now have a consensus Y chromosome type of these individuals.
“As such, this side of the work is in its early stages, and may indeed prove inconclusive, but we are hopeful that, if it's possible to conduct a full analysis, it will provide a complete picture on both the male and female lines.”
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