Our genes can give away where we are from, according to research published online this week in Nature. By analysing small areas of genetic variation known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, scientists have uncovered a surprising link between genes and geography.
John Novembre and colleagues examined the genetic fingerprints of over 3,000 Europeans, linking the data with information on their geographical origin. When they plotted their results on a two-dimensional grid, what emerged looked remarkably like a map of Europe. The authors say they were able to pinpoint a person’s origin to within a few hundred km in some cases.
As well as posing exciting prospects for testing genetic ancestry, the research has important implications for evaluating genome-wide association studies, which are commonly used to link genes with diseases.