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May 1, 2017

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Blood transfusion researcher rediscovers genetic history

Marie Lin (林媽利), 73, director and professor at the Transfusion Medicine Laboratory of Mackay Memorial Hospital (馬偕紀念醫院輸血醫學實驗室)in Taipei, is arguably better qualified than most people to tackle the thorny issues of genetic lineage and ethnical identity from a historical perspective, because, among other things, Lin is the product of a cross-cultural marriage.

And some of her other discoveries about blood groups, especially the peculiarities of blood groups commonly found in Taiwan and East Asia, can be attributed to her compassion for her less-fortunate compatriots as both a Christian and a well-trained pathologist who has seen, and experienced, her fair share of human suffering.

Lin's mother, a Japanese woman, was the daughter of a Japanese bushi (samurai) of the Kuroda clan native to a place north of today's Nagasaki, in Kyushu, in southeastern Japan. After a cursory look at her life story, one cannot help but wonder whether it was the samurai or the Christian in her that held her steady and gave her the resilience she needed as she looked eye to eye at the cancer cells, which were her own, through a microscope.

Human History is a Melting Pot: Marie Lin

"Who and what am I?" is a question that never ceases to perplex people curious about their ethnic provenance, especially in Taiwan, where such a question is often considered politically charged. An answer to this question may continue to elude the country's 23-million-strong population for a long time on social, political and cultural levels, but a genetic answer, it seems, has been found by Lin, who has delineated the ethnic lineages of the people of Taiwan by deciphering their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

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