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U-M researchers release most detailed global study of genetic variation
Date:2/20/2008

of the genetic alphabet---that are either repeated or deleted entirely from a person's genome. Various diseases can be triggered by an abnormal gain or loss in the number of gene copies.

  • It's sometimes possible to trace a person's ancestry to an individual population within a geographic region. While previous studies have found that broad-scale geographic ancestry could be successfully traced, the new results indicate "it's becoming increasingly possible to use genomics to refine the geographic position of an individual's ancestors with more and more precision," Rosenberg said.

  • Human genetic diversity decreases as distance from Africa---the cradle of humanity---increases. People of African descent are more genetically diverse than Middle Easterners, who are more diverse than Asians and Europeans. Native Americans possess the least-diverse genomes. As a result, searching for disease-causing genes should require the fewest number of genetic markers among Native Americans and the greatest number of markers among Africans.

The results are being made available on publicly shared databases.

"I hope the study will be an invaluable resource for understanding genomic variability and investigating genetic association with disease," said the NIA's Singleton.

The researchers analyzed DNA from 485 people. They examined three types of genetic variation: single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs; haplotypes; and CNVs.

If the human genome is viewed as a 3-billion-letter book of life, then SNPs represent single-letter spelling changes, haplotype variations equate to word changes, and CNVs are wholesale deletions or duplications of full pages.

The patterns revealed by the new study support the idea that humans originated in Africa, then spread into the Middle East, followed by Europe and Asia, the Pacific Islands, and finally to the Americas.

The results also bolster the notion of "s
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Contact: Jim Erickson
ericksn@umich.edu
734-764-7260
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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