Major new study unveils complexity and vast diversity of Africa’s genetic variation

Major new study unveils complexity and vast diversity of Africa's genetic variation

Africa is the cradle of humankind. All humans are descendants from this common pool of ancestors. Africa and its multitude of ethnolinguistic groups are therefore fundamental to learning more about humankind and our origins.

A human genome refers to the complete set of genetic information found in a human cell. We inherit our genomes from our parents. Studying the variations in different people’s genomes gives important clues to how genetic information influences people’s appearance and health. It can also tell us about our ancestry. To date, very few African individuals have been included in studies looking at genetic variation. Studying African genomes not only fills a gap in the current understanding of human genetic variation, but also reveals new insights into the history of African populations.

My colleagues and I, who are all members of the Human Heredity and Health (H3Africa) consortium, contributed to a landmark genetics study. This study focused on 426 individuals from 13 African countries. More than 50 different ethnolinguistic groups were represented in the study – one of the most diverse groups of Africans ever to be included in such an investigation. We sequenced the whole genome of each of these individuals – this means we could read every part of the genome to look for variation.

This study contributes a major, new source of African genomic data, which showcases the complex and vast diversity of African genetic variation. And it will support research for decades to come.…

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