Proposed Title: Geographic Origins of 50 Ethnic Groups in the Indian Subcontinent

Prestigious publication funded by ‘The Jenkinson TIRI Awards’ reveals the geographic origins of 50 ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent.

The Y chromosome retains a remarkable record of human ancestry, since it is passed directly from father to son. In a research article published this week in the prestigious journal Frontiers in Genetics scientists from the University of Bolton and University of California, Los Angeles have utilized recently described genetic variations on the part of the Y chromosome to significantly update and refine the geographic origins of 50 ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent.

Human cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes: 22 pairs of autosomes, and one pair of sex chromosomes. Females carry a pair of X chromosomes that can swap, or recombine, similar regions of DNA during meiosis. However, males harbour one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, and significant recombination between these dissimilar sex chromosomes does not occur.

Therefore, the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome (NRY) remains largely unchanged over many generations, directly passed from father to son, son to grandson, and so on, along with genetic variations in the NRY that may be present. Scientists can use genetic variations, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), on the Y chromosome as markers of human ancestry and migration.

Several studies have evaluated the movements of large populations to the Indian subcontinent; however, the ancient geographic origins of smaller ethnic communities are not clear. Although historians have attempted to identify the origins of some ethnic groups, the evidence is typically anecdotal and based upon what others have written before.

New research supported by a Jenkinson TIRI Award has offered some clarity on the topic. David Mahal, doctoral student, and Dr Ianis G. Matsoukas, Molecular Geneticist and Assistant Teaching Professor in the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, were able to skirt this impediment by exploiting advanced DNA Technologies currently available at the University of Bolton.

A few months ago, another piece of research published by the same group of scientists in Frontiers in Genetics (click here), provided new insights into the ancient geographic origins of the Jat community; a population of over 123 million people.

In this new study, recent developments in DNA science were assessed to provide a contemporary perspective by analyzing the Y chromosome haplogroups of some key ethnic groups of the Indian subcontinent and tracing their ancient geographical origins.

‘Our dataset consists of 2,504 Y chromosome profiles of 50 ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent. Our results showed that every ethnic group in the dataset had members that belonged to more than one haplogroup, indicating multiple lines of ancestry and geographic origins, said Dr Ianis G. Matsoukas.

This prestigious Open Access publication has been supported by a Jenkinson TIRI Award, which aims to integrate advanced DNA technologies into the curriculum of Medical Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Health Sciences. Over the last three years, the Jenkinson TIRI Award funded 46 projects and awarded £225k in funding.

Even with their potentially different languages, religions, nationalities, customs, cuisines, and physical differences, members of different ethnic groups who belonged to the same haplogroup were genetically related and had the same ancient MRCAs and geographic origins in the distant past. I am sure that more scientific studies will follow, providing insights about where and when the founding populations of the Indian subcontinent arrived, and how they spread in different directions to create so many diverse ethnic communities’, Dr Matsoukas added.

The research article entitled ‘The Geographic Origins of Ethnic Groups in the Indian Subcontinent: Exploring Ancient Footprints with Y-DNA Haplogroups’ can be read online at Frontiers in Genetics: Click here

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