AN INTERNATIONAL TEAM OF SCIENTISTS AND SCHOLARS FROM EIGHT COUNTRIES ELUCIDATE THE GENETIC STRUCTURE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE AT THE WHOLE GENOME LEVEL
23 June, 2010
Contemporary Jews comprise an aggregate of communities whose worldwide members identify with each other through various shared religious, historical, and cultural traditions. Historical evidence suggests common origins in the Middle East, followed by multiple migrations leading to the establishment of communities of Jews in Europe, Africa, and Asia - in what is termed the Jewish Diaspora. Previous genetic studies have demonstrated shared paternal lineages, with multiple founder events for maternal lineages - but have not examined the implications at the whole genome level across a broad spectrum of Diaspora communities.
An international team of research scientists and scholars, from Israel, Estonia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States has now completed a comprehensive analysis of more than 600,000 DNA markers, distributed across the entire genome, in order to obtain an integrated picture of the genetic structure of the Jewish people descended from 14 Diaspora communities, and in comparison with 69 worldwide non-Jewish populations. The results are reported in the current issue of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.
The lead author on the report is Doron Behar of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, working with Richard Villems of the Estonia Biocenter in Tartu, where Dr. Behar is also a research fellow. Other Israeli researchers are Karl Skorecki and Guennady Yudkovsky of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Saharon Rosset, David Gurwitz, and Batsheva Bonne-Tamir of Tel Aviv University. The results and analyses, show a previously unappreciated fine genetic architecture within the populations of the Middle East - and specifically highlight a Levantine ancestry component, in which Jews descended from communities covering more than 90% of the Jewish population show a tight genetic affiliation.
This genetic clustering and overlapping in certain Levantine populations, exceeds overlapping in neighboring host, non-Jewish populations in the vast majority of cases. These findings are consistent with shared origins in the Levant, followed by migration and degrees of assimilation and admixture with local non-Jewish populations that differ among the various Diaspora Jewish communities. Thus the genetic evidence, now at a genome wide level, is consistent with the conventional historical narrative for the origins and population structure of the Jewish people.
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