Human Genome project leaves much of human variation unsampled

The first draft of the Human Genome, due to be published early next year, represents only a fraction of the worlds human genetic diversity because the sample used for the project does not include adequate representation from sub-Saharan Africa. With more genetic variation occurring within human races, rather than between them, the projects exclusion of individuals from the most variable human populations on the planet ignores the worldwide genetic diversity of the human species and our evolutionary history, according to Todd R Disotell an anthropologist from New York University writing in Genome Biology.

Despite our visual perception of the variation between races, studies have shown that as much as 85% of all human variation occurs between individuals of the same population while less than 10% of the variation was between the major races represented in the broadest sense by Africans, Asians and Europeans. This pattern of diversity is largely accounted for by human evolutionary history. Studies of human DNA from populations around the world suggests a common African ancestry living some 200,000 years ago. Modern theories of human evolution suggest that expansion of populations from Africa began 100,000 years ago - giving nearly twice as much time for variation to accumulate in sub-Saharan Africa as in the rest of the world, writes Disotell.

The announcement by Craig Venter, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Celera Genomics, on June 26 2000 that his research group had assembled the complete human genome should, Disotell argues, "be viewed only as the first step in characterizing human diversity". The Celera research group did not sample a complete human genome, rather they generated a composite genome made up of three females and two males identifying themselves as African-American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic. From these data, Celera scientists concluded that, "the concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis" - a quote that

Contact: John Peel
BioMed Central

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