April 30, 2009

Study: Africa genetically diverse

A 10-year study of African population genetics has determined the continent is the most genetically diverse in the world, researchers said Thursday.

The team headed by Sara Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania, determined that modern humans evolved in southern Africa on the border between Namibia and South Africa. They left the continent by way of East Africa at about the midpoint in the Red Sea.

The research team collected data from 14 African populations, four populations of black Americans and 60 non-African populations, Tishkoff said.

Our goal has been to do research that will benefit Africans, both by learning more about their population history and by setting the stage for future genetic studies, including studies of genetic and environmental risk factors for disease and drug response, Tishkoff said.

The study determined that 71 percent of black Americans' genetic makeup on average comes from West Africa, 13 percent from European ancestors and 8 percent from elsewhere in Africa. But the individual mix varies tremendously.

The study was published in the April 30 issue of Science.