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DNA Findings Reveal Genetic History of Humans
Date:2/20/2008

Geography determines similarities, differences in DNA, studies find

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have compiled a mass of detailed DNA information that could help reconstruct the genetic history of humans.

"We have investigated genetic similarities of populations across a very large number of sites in the human genome," said Noah Rosenberg, co-senior author of one of two studies on the findings in the Feb. 21 issue of Nature. "We found that it's possible, with a high degree of accuracy, [to tell] which continent, in which population, the individual comes from."

In addition, the primary determinant of genetic similarities and differences seems to be geographic location, said Rosenberg, who is an assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Michigan. "The closer populations are, the greater the degree of similarity between the populations," he noted.

Rosenberg's team also found that the number of distinct genetic variants declined as the distance from Africa increased. "This suggests that a genetic history reflects a history in which populations migrated out of Africa, and along the way only a portion of the genetic diversity available migrated to the next location," he said.

There is still a great deal of genetic diversity in each population, Rosenberg pointed out.

In the study, Rosenberg's team looked at more than 500,000 DNA markers. The markers came from 485 volunteers in the Human Genome Diversity Project. Rosenberg's team looks at genetic variations in 29 different groups from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean islands, and the Americas.

The implication of what Rosenberg's group found is that scientists now have a finer understanding of human evolutionary history.

"We can infer how our ancestors migrated across continents and became successful at living in a very diverse range of environments," Ros
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