Troy, N.Y. An international team of researchers has identified just 200 positions within the curves of the DNA helix that they believe capture much of the genetic diversity in European Americans, a population with one of the most diverse and complex historic origins on Earth. Their findings narrow the search for the elusive ancestral clues known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, that cause disease and account for the minute variations in the European American population.
"With this study, we looked at a very large population to determine how each individual could be stratified based on his or her DNA," said Petros Drineas, assistant professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and one of the two lead authors of the study. The researchers can now begin to analyze each SNP to understand the possible biological significance of those genetic, ancestral differences.
The research, which was published in the July 2008 edition of PLoS Genetics, is the first to isolate genetic ancestral clues based on a method that is purely computational, requiring no previous personal history. The other lead author of the study is Peristera Paschou of the Democritus University of Thrace in Greece.
The researchers plan to use the data to determine if any of the approximately 200 ancestry informative SNPs that they have identified change the way the body develops. "We want to see if the SNPs tied to a specific ancestry hold any biological significance to populations of different origins. We want to see if the SNPs that we isolated are related to natural selection and adaptation, for example to the weather conditions of different regions," Drineas said. To help do so, the research team will move from the computer lab to the biology lab for further study.
In addition, the researchers hope that their findings will help narrow down the search for those SNPs that cause disease, according to Drineas.
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|Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute