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Genome-Wide Study Uncovers an Increase of Genetic Distances towards Northern Europe
A recent Finnish-Swedish study shows that genetic differences in Central Europe appear smaller than between and even within North European populations.
Human population genetic studies have recently gained a new powerful tool from the analysis of densely spaced single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the whole genome. In this study, almost 250 000 such polymorphisms were used to analyze genetic differences between the Germans, British, Eastern and Western Finns, and Swedes, based on ca. 1000 samples.
The Germans and British are genetically close to each other, which has been observed also in other recently published studies. In contrast, the genetic distances between the Swedes and Eastern and Western Finns are larger, and the diversity in these populations is lower.
The genetic difference between Eastern and Western Finland is substantial in a European scale, and there are also clear differences between Finnish counties.
— The larger genetic distances in the north are caused by differences in population history: the northernmost parts of Europe were inhabited later than Central Europe and by fewer people, and have had smaller populations since then, says Dr. Päivi Lahermo.
Professor Juha Kere points out that the understanding of genetic variation in human populations is important not only for obtaining information on population history, but also for successful studies of genetic factors behind human diseases.
The study has been published in PLoS ONE journal and it can be freely downloaded from http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003519.
Text: Päivi Lehtinen