Human ancestry analyzed by genetics

Human ancestry analyzed by genetics

A new statistical approach has been determined to study the genetic variation in populations, and has potential to answer new questions about human migration, according to an article released May 23, 2008 in the open access journal PLoS Genetics.

Previous methods of genome analysis have focused on one part of the human genome, for instance, just one chromosome, or are just based on a very simple model of heredity that does not consider chromosomal structure at all. A new analysis technique would need to combine aspects of each of these analyses to answer new questions about human population flow.

In such an attempt, a group including Hellenthal and colleagues at the University of Oxford and University College Cork developed a techniqe to examine shared parts of chromosomes spread across the entire human genome. This new method gives much finer details than other methods, and may allow scientists to examine the genetics of people further back in time, to identify more delicate genetic contributions. It examines 2,000 genetic markers using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) data from the 2006 Human Diversity Project. By applying the method, the scientists were able to identify several unexpected findings, including a strong Mongolian contribution to the genes of the Pima Native American Tribe and certain details of gene flow from the north of Europe to Eastern Siberia.

The researchers believe that this method can further be used to analyze much larger data sets, perhaps with as many as 500,000 genetic markers. In the future, they hope to create a more finely detailed reconstruction of human ancestry, and in doing this create an independent perspective, uncolored by anthropological theory and interpretation.

Inferring Human Colonization History Using a Copying Model.

Hellenthal G, Auton A, Falush D

PLoS Genet 4(5): e1000078.


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