"The finding that a large proportion of modern Indians descend from founder events means that India is genetically not a single large population, but instead is best described as many smaller isolated populations," said Singh. Thangaraj continued, "The widespread history of founder events helps explain why the incidence of genetic diseases among Indians is different from the rest of the world."
Founder events in other groups, such as Finns and Ashkenazi Jews, are well known to increase the incidence of recessive genetic diseases, and the new study predicts that the same will be true for many groups in India. "It is important to carry out a systematic survey of Indian groups to identify which ones descend from the strongest founder events," said Reich. "Further studies of these groups should lead to the rapid discovery of genes that cause devastating diseases, and will help in the clinical care of individuals and their families who are at risk."
"Just as important as these findings are the statistical approaches that led to them," said Alkes Price, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the Nature study. "In studying Indian genetic variation we also developed a novel toolkit for understanding the relationships among groups and the history of mixture. We believe that these tools can drive future studies not only of Indian history but of groups worldwide."
|Contact: Nicole Davis|
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard