The field is given a boost by a widening of focus at the institutes as well as a report praising a major initiative.
During the brief earthly tenure of the species Homo sapiens, the human genome seems to have accumulated just the right amount of variation to suit the purposes of geneticists. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), the DNA bases that vary systematically between subpopulations, are common enough to serve usefully as chromosomal markers but not so common as to make genetic analysis hopelessly complicated. As these SNPs (pronounced "snips") become easier to identify, they increasingly are being hailed as crucial tools not only for uncovering the genetic components of common diseases, but also for understanding human prehistory.

'LIGHTNING ROD': Penn State's Kenneth Weiss says the Human Genome Diversity Project introduced researchers to people "suspicious of science and/or genetics."
Recent enthusiasm about SNPs has had two pronounced effects. Officials at the National...

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