Founder Populations Fuel Gene Discovery

The field of human genetics has never been "politically correct." The first gene screens created in the 1970s, for sickle cell disease and Tay-Sachs disease, targeted African American and Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jewish populations, respectively. This targeting made economic sense as these conditions are more prevalent within these populations. It isn't that genes discriminate, but that the human tendency to select mates like themselves tends to keep particular gene variants within certain g

Ricki Lewis
Apr 15, 2001
The field of human genetics has never been "politically correct." The first gene screens created in the 1970s, for sickle cell disease and Tay-Sachs disease, targeted African American and Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jewish populations, respectively. This targeting made economic sense as these conditions are more prevalent within these populations. It isn't that genes discriminate, but that the human tendency to select mates like themselves tends to keep particular gene variants within certain groups.

Today, as genetics morphs into genomics, certain populations are again playing prominent roles in gene discovery. These "Founder populations" are modern groups that descend from a few individuals who left one area to settle another for political, religious, or social reasons. Founder populations are sought after for association studies that search for links between health-related gene variants and SNP patterns (profiles of single nucleotide polymorphisms, which are sites within the genome where a single base can differ...