Biotech researchers can now look at diseases specifically prevalent in the African American community with what is being called the world's most advanced and detailed genetic map. Harvard and Oxford researchers analyzed data from 30,000 African Americans, looking at the areas where DNA from the mother and father has been reshuffled in order to produce a single reproductive cell. The researchers were surprised to find significant differences in where recombinations occur in the DNA of people with African ancestry than in non-African populations.
"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," Oxford researcher Simon Myers said in a statement.
If not for mutation and recombination, we would all be genetically identical. But while mutation occurs in a single spot within genomes when cells divide, recombination occurs when whole chunks of chromosomes come together during reproduction. But this stitching together of chromosomes only occurs at specific spots. And there is a gene, PRDM9, partially responsible for this recombination machinery. Errors at the spot where recombination occurs leads to rare genetic diseases.
The research is expected to help scientists understand the roots of congenital conditions that occur more often in African Americans than other populations and also to help discover new disease genes, because of the ability to map these genes more precisely.