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Algorithm Teases Out Genetic Ancestry in Individuals at Biobank Scale

For a paper appearing in Nucleic Acids Research, researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other centers in the US and Colombia outline a genetic ancestry inference algorithm known as Rye, designed for estimating ancestry fractions spanning seven regional ancestry groups at the biobank-scale. After testing and validating the Rye algorithm on nearly 1,700 admixed reference individuals and more than 500 test individuals from the Americas with African, European, and Native American ancestry, the team applied it to global reference sequences for almost 2,200 individuals as well as genetic data for more than 488,200 UK Biobank participants, where the approach compared favorably to existing methods for estimating genetic ancestry. "Rye can infer [genetic ancestry] at both the continental and subcontinental levels using data from individual (unlinked) genomic variants," the authors explain. "Information provided by haplotypes of linked variants could, in principle, provide for even greater resolution of fine-scale ancestry inference."

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