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Technique traces origins of disease genes in mixed human populations
Date:4/8/2008

A team of researchers from Washington University in St. Louis and the Israeli Institute of Technology (Technion) in Haifa has developed a technique to detect the ancestry of disease genes in hybrid, or mixed, human populations.

The technique, called expected mutual information (EMI), determines how a set of DNA markers is likely to show the ancestral origin of locations on each chromosome. The team constructed an algorithm for the technique that selects panels of DNA markers that render the best picture of ancestral origin of disease genes. They then tested the algorithm to show that it is more powerful and accurate than standard algorithms that currently select for markers.

The impact is on identifying inherited genes that cause diseases in people of mixed races, which researchers call population admixture. Nephrologists, for instance, have noted that African Americans are far more likely than Europeans to die rapidly of end-stage, progressive kidney failure. Many African Americans also have genes that originated in Europe due to ethnic mixing. The technique helps researchers isolate the genetic causes of disease by detecting from which continent the recurrent disease genes originated.

It is hoped, then, that through gene therapy or perhaps drugs the disease can be prevented or treated.

This technique will allow researchers to analyze which regions of the genome are associated with end-stage, progressive renal failure, said Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., Washington University Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology, and co-author of a paper on the technique and the algorithm published in the current issue of Genome Research 18, 661-667. Once the regions are identified, then you look at the individual genes and ask: Are there genetic factors involved with this, and if so, what are the candidates"

Its a good bet, Templeton said, that the disease genes are highly likely to have emerged from Africa, as African Americans have show
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Contact: Alan Templeton
temple_a@wustl.edu
314-935-6868
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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