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Ancient Greek Army Ancestry Highlights Mercenary Role in Historical Migrations

In PNAS, an international team led by investigators at Harvard University the Max Planck-Harvard Research Center, and the University of Florence present findings from a genomic analysis of ancient soldiers at the Greek Sicilian colony Himera. Using targeted enrichment sequencing, the researchers profiled roughly 1.2 million SNPs across the genome in ancient 5th century samples representing 33 apparent Battles of Himera participants and another 21 ancient Sicilians from nearby Indigenous Sicani settlements. Together with sequences for almost 100 individuals from modern-day Italy and Greece, the ancient sequences revealed northern Europe, Steppe, and Caucasus ancestry in the Greek soldier group, they report. The new genetic ­— combined with available archaeological, historical, and other — data, "illustrate the significant role mercenaries played in ancient Greek armies and highlight how participation in war contributed to continental-scale human mobility in the Classical world," the authors write, adding that the wide-reaching Greek mercenary origins lends "nuance to our understanding of the long-distance movements of individuals relating to specialized economic or religious activities, apart from well-documented population movements, such as the establishment of colonies.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.