July 21, 2011

Scientists Construct World’s Most Detailed Genetic Map

Scientists at the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School have constructed the world's most detailed genetic map.

The map specifies the precise areas in the genetic material of a sperm or egg, where the DNA from the mother and father has been reshuffled in order to produce this single reproductive cell.

The biological process in which this reshuffling occurs is known as "recombination."

Although most genetic maps have been developed from people of European ancestry, this new map offers the first construction from African American recombination genomic data.

"This is the world's most accurate genetic map," David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, who co-led the study, said in a statement.

The researchers found that positions where recombination occurs in African Americans are significantly different from non-African populations.

"The landscape of recombination has shifted in African Americans compared with Europeans," Anjali Hinch, first author and a post-graduate student at Oxford University's Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, said in a press release.

Simon Myers, a lecturer in the Department of Statistics at the University of Oxford, added, "More than half of African Americans carry a version of the biological machinery for recombination that is different than Europeans. As a result, African Americans experience recombination where it almost never occurs in Europeans."

The team said scientists have just recently started to explore the genetic differences between individuals and populations. 

The new genetic map pinpoints genome locations where people splice together DNA form their mothers and fathers to produce sperm or eggs.

Dr. James Wilson, UMMC professor of medicine and the study's coordinator, believes the map holds promise for genome-wide applications and single-disease research.

"The map will be helpful in finding the genetic roots of any disease that's affected by inheritance "“ which is virtually every disease," he said in a statement.

The findings are published in the July 21 edition of Nature.


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