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A Study of Heritage and More

Students in Puerto Rico are studying the DNA of their fellow residents to study disease and other traits in the population, LiveScience reports. The students are collecting spit samples from people at public sites across the island.

"That is the goal we are moving toward, to describe genetic diversity across the island and do it in a kind of crowdsourcing way, one study at a time," Taras Oleksyk, the principal investigator of the Local Genome Diversity Studies project at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez tells LiveScience. "And hopefully, we'll come up with something on the big picture."

He adds that they hope to glean some insight into the ancestry of Puerto Ricans and how that may inform their disease risk.

One student, Jorge Irizarry Caro, is particularly interested in the prevalence of variants of the LTA4H gene, some of which have been implicated in increased risk of heart attack, especially in African Americans. Caro has examined LTA4H variants in samples from areas with higher proportions of African ancestry, finding more of the higher risk variants there.

Knowing this genetic information could inform medical treatment, Caro tells LiveScience, "so, if you go to a hospital, they know you are predisposed to heart attacks because of your genetic ancestry," he says.