New Genetic Analysis Identifies Ancestry, Reduces False Positives in Pinpointing Disease

Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Medical Xpress, March 18, 2014

Ancestral background has much to do with our likelihood of developing or staving off disease. But separating the associations between who we are and where we come from, and genetic variations that cause disease, can be difficult and often result in false genetic study leads.

A new statistical method, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, can help those who study the human genome better identifyancestry as they go about isolating the genes that cause disease.

The LASER (Locating Ancestry from SEquence Reads) software can establish ancestry using very small amounts of sequence data, scattered across 1-10 percent of the genome and adding only a few dollars to the cost of a genetic analysis.

“You can use our method to describe the ancestry of an individual very precisely, even separating individuals from different parts of Finland,” said Goncalo Abecasis, the Felix E. Moore Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics at U-M. “In studies of genetic diseases, this information helps separate changes that cause disease from more numerous changes that specify ancestry.”

A study explaining how the new software program was developed and tested is published online in Nature Genetics.

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