Bengaluru, Dec 5 (IANS) Asia has at least 10 ancestral lineages, whereas northern Europe has just one, says a study of global genetic comparison including genome sequence from 598 individuals belonging to 55 ethnic groups from India.
The findings, published in the journal Nature, are from the first study of GenomeAsia 100K project which was launched in 2016 to better understand the genome diversity of Asian ethnicities by sequencing 100,000 genomes of people living in Asia.
In their first study, the non-profit consortium analysed the genomes of 1,739 people.
"To put it into context, imagine we looked at all people of European descent and based on the level of their genetic diversity, observed that they could all be grouped into just one ancestral lineage or population," said Stephan C. Schuster, Professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
"Now, if we took that same approach with our new data from people of Asian descent, then based on the much higher levels of genetic diversity observed we would say that there are 10 different ancestral groups or lineages in Asia," said Schuster, the consortium's scientific chairman and a co-leader of the study.
The study covers 64 different countries and provides what the authors call "the first comprehensive genetic map for Asia" that will guide scientists in studying diseases unique to Asians, improve precision medicine and identify drugs that may carry higher risk of adverse reactions for certain ethnic groups.
Despite forming over 40 per cent of the world's population, Asian people have previously accounted for only six per cent of the world's recorded genome sequences.
"The data from this study besides helping understand the population groups has already proved to be a great resource for disease gene discovery in an ongoing analysis of over 1,500 familial inherited disorder cases," said Somasekar Seshagiri, an author on the study and President, SciGenom Research Foundation in Chennai.
For the study, genomic DNA extracted from the blood and saliva samples was sequenced in laboratories of the four consortium members in the US, India, South Korea and Singapore.
The digital sequencing data was subsequently sent to Singapore for processing and storage.
"We have a great opportunity to apply genomics in India to understand, manage and treat diseases. Genomic analysis of our unique population groups and disease cohorts will lead to identification of genetic mutations and drug targets not just for India but for the whole world," said Sam Santhosh, CEO of genomics-driven research and diagnostics company MedGenome and one of the study authors.
"The data from GenomeAsia 100k effort will help enhance our efforts in make cutting edge genomics accessible to Indians," Santhosh said.