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African gene study unveiled

5th May 2009

An international team of geneticists has published a new study giving an in-depth look at African genes.


Published in the journal Science, the study included 121 African populations, 4 African American populations, and 60 non-African populations.

The researchers describe Africa as the source of all modern humans, but said until now, the precise nature of genetic variation among African populations had not been well understood.

The team said theirs was the most comprehensive study ever of African genes, and took a decade to produce.

Their findings give new insight into the development of disease and possible drug development routes among people of African origin.

They also shed light on the earliest history of humanity, saying that humans probably evolved in an area which is now the border between South Africa and Namibia, then migrated north.

The findings will also inform the study of African population history.

"We observe high levels of mixed ancestry in most populations, reflecting historic migration events across the continent," the team wrote.

They said they identified 14 ancestral population clusters in Africa which corresponded closely to certain languages, and to accounts that certain ethnic groups gave of their own origins and relationships.

It said African Americans could be traced back predominantly to  the Niger-Kordofanian (~71%), European (~13%), and other African (~8%) populations.

But it said the percentages of genetic make-up varied greatly from one person to another.

Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist from the University of Pennsylvania said that the goal was to "benefit Africans, both by learning more about their population history."

She said the research would also set the stage for future genetic studies, including studies of genetic and environmental risk factors for disease and drug response.


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Article Information

Title: African gene study unveiled
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 11225
Date Added: 5th May 2009


BBC News

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