Genetic study offers comprehensive and diverse view of recent US population history

March 05, 2020

Researchers have assembled one of the most comprehensive studies of population genetics ever conducted in the United States, bringing together large-scale genetics data from more than 32,000 participants in the National Geographic Genographic Project. This new view on the US, appearing March 5 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, reveals a remarkable degree of complexity. Beyond offering an intriguing view of the nation's recent history, the findings also have important implications for health and medicine, the researchers say.

"We have inferred US demographic history at fine scale by combining genetic, geospatial, and multigenerational birth record data," says Alicia Martin (@genetisaur) of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "This provides important lessons for the future: if we want genetic technologies to benefit everyone, we need to rethink our current approach for genetic studies because they typically miss a huge swath of American--and more broadly human--diversity."

Although much effort has been made to understand the genetic diversity in the US, fine-scale patterns were less clear for minority populations, particularly for Latin American and African descendants with complex ancestral histories. There also had been little research on the population structure of individuals in the US with East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern ancestry.

Martin and colleagues report that the new effort had several distinct advantages compared to other large-scale population genetics datasets. First, genetic data for each consenting participant from the Genographic Project are accessible to researchers around the world to answer anthropological questions. Most of the study's participants also reported their postal code along with birthplace and ethnicity data for themselves, their parents, and their grandparents, enabling fine-scale insights into recent history.

Their analysis revealed the following:Martin also noted that Hispanic/Latino populations have native origins spanning North, Central, and South America over several generations. These roots vary in how much and how long ago they appear in Californians, New Mexicans, Texans, and Floridians on average.

The researchers say that these findings are "the tip of the iceberg." As the number of participants in this and other ongoing studies continues to grow, the view of US population history will become even clearer.

Martin says they will continue this work as the available data grow to include about 250,000 Americans. In future studies, they also plan to expand to people who may or may not live in the US as well, which, Martin says, will help to tease out relationships among underrepresented populations, such as Hispanic/Latino populations in Florida who have ancestral roots from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and elsewhere.
-end-
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Geographic Society.

American Journal of Human Genetics, Dai et al.: "Population histories of the United States revealed through fine-scale migration and haplotype analysis" https://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(20)30044-6

The American Journal of Human Genetics (@AJHGNews), published by Cell Press for the American Society of Human Genetics, is a monthly journal that provides a record of research and review relating to heredity in humans and to the application of genetic principles in medicine and public policy, as well as in related areas of molecular and cell biology. Visit: http://www.cell.com/ajhg. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com.

Cell Press

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.