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Team Sequences Admixed African-American and Mexican Genomes

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers from Stanford University, Life Technologies, and elsewhere announced that they have sequenced and analyzed the genomes of two admixed individuals.

At the European Society of Human Genetics meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, this weekend, the team reported that they used the ABI SOLiD platform to sequence the genomes of an African-American and Mexican-American individual. Those involved say the work should provide insights into human population and migration patterns — and offer new clues into the genetic bases of complex diseases.

"We believe that our work will help move forward genetic disease-association studies in these admixed populations," project co-leader Francisco De La Vega, a researcher with Life Technologies, said in a statement. "This would not only provide valuable information on the genetic component of disease in these people, but would also help refine genetic association findings in other populations."

"[T]he high resolution admixture maps we can generate can help in studies to map variants of disease whose prevalence is very different in the ancestral populations of admixed groups," he added.

The researchers knew going into the study that many African-American individuals are descended from individuals from West African and Northern European populations, while Mexican individuals are related to indigenous Meso-American populations descended from populations in Asia, Spain, and other parts of Southern Europe.

But by doing detailed genomic studies of individuals of African-American and Hispanic-Latino ancestry, the team was able to gain a more refined view of the contributions that ancestral populations have made to present day genomes.

"[W]e can show the approximate number of generations at which the genetic mixing occurred, estimate the rate at which admixture occurred, and understand better the genetic diversity in the ancestral populations," De La Vega explained.

Several large-scale efforts — including the international Hap Map project and 1000 Genomes Project — have already made headway in characterizing genetic patterns in a range of populations around the world. But, De La Vega and his co-workers say, personal genome sequencing projects to date have mainly involved European, Asian, and African individuals and have largely neglected admixed populations such as those found in North America.

The researchers identified genetic variants and genomic patterns associated with admixture that can also offer insights into related indigenous populations and other ancestral populations.

Along with the additional insights that the work may offer for those interested in human migration patterns, the research is expected to lay the groundwork for more extensive disease-association studies in North America and beyond.

The team reportedly plans to tackle many additional admixed genomes in the future, including at least 500 admixed genomes to be sequenced as part of the 1000 Genomes Project.

For that study the researchers will sequence African-American individuals from the US southeast and southwest, Afro-Caribbean individuals from Barbados, Hispanic individuals from Los Angeles, as well as individuals from Peru, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.

"We are incredibly excited about the inclusion of these populations in the Project, since we hope that the genomic resources developed by it will encourage the development of genetic studies in under-represented communities in the US and Latin America," project co-leader Carlos Bustamante, a Stanford University geneticist, said in a statement.

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