Study finds genetic links among Jewish people

Jun 03, 2010

Using sophisticated genetic analysis, scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and New York University School of Medicine have published a study indicating that Jews are a widely dispersed people with a common ancestry. Jews from different regions of the world were found to share many genetic traits that are distinct from other groups and that date back to ancient times.

The study also provides the first detailed genetic maps of the major Jewish subpopulations, a resource that can be used to study the of disease. The findings appear in the June 3 online issue of the .

"This study provides new genomic information that can benefit not only those of Jewish ancestry, but the population at large," said co-author Edward Burns, M.D., executive dean and professor of pathology and of medicine at Einstein. "By providing a comprehensive of various Jewish subpopulations, it can help us understand genetic links to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other common diseases."

To better understand the ways in which current Jewish groups are related, Dr. Burns and his colleagues, including principal investigator Harry Ostrer, M.D., professor of pediatrics, pathology and medicine at NYU, performed a genome-wide analysis of the three major groups formed by the Diasporas (the scattering of Jews into Europe, and throughout the Middle East): Eastern European Ashkenazim; Italian, Greek, and Turkish Sephardim; and Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian Mizrahim Jews.

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Gil Atzmon, Ph.D., lead author of a new study in the American Journal of Human Genetics, discusses the research that found genetic links among Jewish people living in different regions of the world. Dr. Atzmon is assistant professor of medicine and of genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Credit: Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University

A total of 237 participants were recruited from Jewish communities in the metropolitan New York region, Seattle, Athens, Rome and Israel. Subjects were included only if all four grandparents came from the same Jewish community. The results were compared with a genetic analysis of 418 people from non-Jewish groups around the world.

The researchers found that Jews from the major Diaspora groups formed a distinct population cluster, albeit one that is closely related to European and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations. Each of the Diaspora groups also formed its own cluster within the larger Jewish cluster. Further, each group demonstrated Middle-Eastern ancestry and varying degrees of mixing with surrounding populations. The showed that the two major groups, Middle Eastern Jews and European Jews, diverged from each other approximately 2,500 years ago.

"The study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history," said Dr. Ostrer of NYU. "Yet the admixture with European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair."

"The goal of the study was to determine a genomic baseline," said lead author Gil Atzmon, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and of genetics at Einstein. "With this established, we'll be able to more easily identify genes associated with complex disorders like diabetes that are determined by multiple variants across the genome. Armed with this information, we will be better positioned to treat patients."

Explore further: Assortativity signatures of transcription factor networks contribute to robustness

More information: Atzmon et al.: “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry.” Publishing in the American Journal of Human Genetics, June 11, 2010

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PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2010
"The study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history," said Dr. Ostrer of NYU. "Yet the admixture with European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair."
Oh please...

As if Judaism only ever spread through interbreeding, like some sort of a genetic trait.

They are completely ignoring active Jewish proselytism, and wholesale conversion of native populations to Judaism, as happened for example with the Khazars.

Their conclusions read a bit like saying, "Hey look there are Asian-looking Christians: the white European Christians must've interbred with some Asians to produce those sub-populations."
Shootist
2 / 5 (3) Jun 04, 2010
I wasn't aware that there was active "Jewish proselytism". In fact, at least with the Ashkenazi it is well known that they have been a very insular society for at least the last 1000 years. Hence the amount of similar genetic material.

Something else well documented. The Ashkenazi mean IQ score (115) is 1 sigma (15) higher than the general population (100). It has been shown that the insular social habits of this group, over at least the last 1000 years, has led to effectively breeding a more intelligent human.

These results do not appear in Sephardi, or other, Jewish groups.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2010
The conclusions written up in this article could very easily have been drawn without doing any research at all.
Jews from the major Diaspora groups formed a distinct population cluster, albeit one that is closely related to European and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations
If you added up all the people who contributed to your DNA over only the last one thousand years - parents(2) + grandparents(4) + greatgrandparents(8) etc. etc., you would wind up with a number that is greater than was the population of the entire world a thousand years ago, so the quoted statement above is moot.
damnfuct
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
If you added up all the people who contributed to your DNA over only the last one thousand years - parents(2) + grandparents(4) + greatgrandparents(8) etc. etc., you would wind up with a number that is greater than was the population of the entire world a thousand years ago, so the quoted statement above is moot.


All of a person's precursors did not live at the same time, so the number does not have to be greater than the population of the world.

For example, this site: http://www.prb.or...rth.aspx

estimates the number of people that have lived on Earth to be around 106 billion, which is a lot more than the current ~6.7 billion.
damnfuct
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
Also, at some point the precursors for different people converge
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2010
@Shootist,
I wasn't aware that there was active "Jewish proselytism".
And your lack of awareness means there wasn't? Here's a clue: if you hear something you weren't aware of, see if you can confirm it by doing some quick-and-dirty online research. For example, I mentioned the Khazars:

http://en.wikiped...ld_Jewry

Then there's this:

http://en.wikiped...ntiquity
http://en.wikiped..._Judaism
Nyloc
3 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2010
A look at the host article adds important information:

"Geneticist David Goldstein of Duke University, says that neither of the "extreme models"—those that see Jewishness as entirely cultural or entirely genetic—"are correct." Rather, Goldstein says, "Jewish genetic history is a complicated mixture of both genetic continuity from an ancestral population and extensive admixture."
Geneticist Harry Ostrer of the New York University School of Medicine concludes "I would hope that these observations would put the idea that Jewishness is just a cultural construct to rest."
Nyloc
3 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2010
A look at the host article adds important information:
"Geneticist David Goldstein of Duke University, says that neither of the "extreme models"—those that see Jewishness as entirely cultural or entirely genetic—"are correct." Rather, Goldstein says, "Jewish genetic history is a complicated mixture of both genetic continuity from an ancestral population and extensive admixture."
Geneticist Harry Ostrer of the New York University School of Medicine concludes "I would hope that these observations would put the idea that Jewishness is just a cultural construct to rest."