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Biomics Group Studying Genetic Changes of Basque Diaspora

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Biomics Group at the University of the Basque Country has obtained results from a study it is conducting into genetic changes of the Basque population living abroad.

Based on these results, the researchers now plan to study how these genetic changes may correlate with obesity and other diseases, and to further study genetic changes in Basque DNA in other regions where the Basques have migrated.

Looking at Basques currently residing in specific parts of the United States – California, Nevada, and Idaho – researchers divided the population into two genetic groups, those who have procreated among each other and maintained a pure Basque line, and those who have intermixed with other races.

In the former, genetically, "[i]t is a transfer to America of what we have here," said Marian Martínez de Pancorbo, the director of Biomics, in a statement. In the latter group, looking at mitochondrial DNA, the Biomics researchers found that there is a genetic component of greater than 50 percent Basque origin, with the balance composed “fundamentally of a Caucasoid nature,” de Pancorbo said.

The Y chromosome showed similar composition, she said.

Now that it has been established at what point genetic heritage of the Basques has been maintained, de Pancorbo and her colleagues plan to investigate obesity and other related diseases within the Basque population. Within two years, they also plan to study people of Basque descendants in other parts of North America and to research the population reaching back to the time when Basque whalers first appeared.

They will compare the Y chromosomes of early Basques in North America with the Y chromosomes of Native American Indians.

“We want to see what percentage there is of certain genes, what percentage of others and how this is correlated with the state of health and illnesses of the Native American peoples who had relations with our population," de Pancorbo said.

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