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Fathers of Finland

The origins of the Saami, a nomadic culture in the north of Scandinavia and Finland, have long been debated. Both the Saami and the Finns are distinct from most Europeans in speaking Uralic, rather than Indo-European, languages. Geneticists trying to decipher anthropologically murky origins have been limited by cumbersome methods for genetic sampling, but this month Ann-Christine Syvnen and colleagues from the National Public Health Institute in Finland report an efficient method for 'gene-typing' individuals using the latest information from the human genome project. Using these methods, the researchers find evidence that two settlement waves originated the present population of Finland.

Scientists have found that the human Y chromosome contains a number of gene variations, called SNPs, which can be used to trace paternal lineage in human populations. In the current study, Syvnen and colleagues report a method using 'gene chips' to simultaneously detect dozens of SNPs in an individual. The researchers used this method to analyze 25 Y chromosome SNPs in men from three different regions of Finland, three groups of Saami, and two other populations belonging to the Uralic language group. Out of six specific SNP combinations found in these populations, two combinations prevail among both the Finns and the Saami. Moreover, the relative prevalence of these two SNP profiles appears to vary between the Western and the Northern/Eastern Finns and subgroups of the Saami. These results support the idea that two separate groups settled Finland and point to shared genetic structure between the Finns and the Saami.


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Contact: Emily Huang
huangep@cshl.org
516-367-6834
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
25-Feb-2001


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