DNA Study of Ancient Migrations Sheds Light on Genetic Diseases
UC scientists seeking to better understand genetic links to major diseases have collaborated with colleagues in China to track the 2,000-year migration of the largest ethnic group in the world.
An international team, led by Li Jin, PhD, of UC's Center for Genome Information, in the Department of Environmental Health, studied the expansion of the Han people from northern to southern China, using genetic analysis to map their movement.
The findings are reported in the Sept. 16 issue of the international scientific journal Nature.
"Understanding genetic structure is extremely important in determining causes of disease," says Dr. Jin. "This ongoing, collaborative project has given scientists a better understanding of genetic links to major illnesses, including cardiovascular and gallbladder disease, diabetes, obesity and lung cancer."
Other UC participants working with Dr. Jin, who is also an adjunct professor at Fudan University in China, are Ranajit Chakraborty, PhD, Ranjan Deka, PhD, and Bing Su, PhD, all at the Center for Genome Information.
Together with Fudan University scientists, they have for a decade been studying genetic structure and human diseases in East Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific populations.
The spread of culture and language follows two alternative patterns, the paper points out: through actual migration of people (the "demic" pattern) or without any extensive movement of people.
The Hans, who now number over 1.6 billion, originated in northern China and expanded into southern China in three major waves and many smaller migrations over two millennia.
The study found that the cultural influence of the Hans was spread by the movement of people, mostly men, whose influence on paternal lineage brought about a significant change in the genetic makeup of southern China.
The work was supported in party by a grant from the National Science Foundation.