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Genetics of Asian Migration

By Allison Proffitt

December 11, 2009
| SINGAPORE—A consortium of HUGO scientists have conducted genome-wide studies on 73 Southeast Asian (SEA) and East Asian (EA) populations, revealing genetic foundations for ethnic and linguistic groups and clear genetic distinctions between northern and southern latitudes. The results were published online in Science yesterday.

The study was conducted by 90 scientists from the Human Genome Organisation’s (HUGO’s) Pan-Asian SNP Consortium and coordinated by HUGO president and director of the Genome Institute of Singapore, Edison Liu. “This study was a milestone not only in the science that emerged, but the consortium that was formed,” said Liu.

Affymetrix served as the primary technology partner for the project.

The finding suggest that there was one major inflow of human migration in to Asia from Southeast Asia, rather than multiple inflows from the north and the south as had been believed. The single route indicates that Southeast Asia was the major geographic source of East Asian and North Asian populations.

Liu believes this is only the first step in needed research. “Our next goal is to expand this collaboration to all of Asia including Central Asia and the Polynesian Islands,” he said. “We also aim to be more detailed in our genomic analysis and plan to include structural variations as well as over a million single nucleotide polymorphisms in the next analysis.”

Ten Asian countries were represented in the research: China, India, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Liu said that overcoming a “shortage of funds and diverse operational constraints” led to a “truly Asian scientific community.”

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