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PLOS Paper Finds Genetic Substructure Among Iranian Populations, More

An Iranian-led team of researchers analyzed the genomes of more than 1,000 individuals from 11 major ethnic groups in Iran. As they report in PLOS Genetics, the researchers uncovered genetic overlap among the various Iranian ethnic populations they analyzed, suggesting a shared, continuous ancestry, though they also noted substantial population substructure. Their analysis further indicates that Iranians adopted different languages over the years, rather than being replaced by speakers of those languages. Based on their findings, the researchers say Iranians should not be considered a single homogenous population and that future studies should take both ethnic affiliations and possible admixture into consideration. 

In another PLOS Genetics paper, a team of European researchers analyzed genome-wide data from 152 European Roma and 34 Iberian Roma to examine the South Asian and West Eurasian ancestry of the Roma. Previous studies had indicated that the Roma people originated in South Asia about 1,500 years ago and migrated into Europe where they admixed with non-Roma Western Eurasians. Through their analysis, the researchers found a complex West Eurasian ancestry component among the Roma they analyzed, which they say further suggests a common Balkan ancestry. They additionally report genetic substructure among the Iberian Rona, finding differing levels of West Eurasian admixture.

Finally, researchers from China conducted a genome-wide methylation analysis of giant pandas to tease out the cause of cataracts. As noted in PLOS One, about 20 percent of pandas develop cataracts, which affect their quality of life. By conducting whole genome methylation sequencing of three giant pandas with cataracts and three healthy giant pandas, the researchers uncovered between 116 and 242 differentially methylated genes, including ones involved in the development of cataracts. Six of these  — EEA1, GARS, SLITRK4, GSTM3, CASP3, and EGLN3 — in particular have been linked to the development of cataracts with age, the researchers say.