A new study published in Human Molecular Genetics suggests that scientists using the latest tools to scan the human genome must pay attention to ancestry when analyzing and interpreting their results.

Chao Tian and Michael F. Seldin, MD, PhD, of University of California Davis, and Peter K. Gregersen, MD, of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, have identified allele frequency differences among ethnic groups and subgroups that can result in statistical errors in genetic studies and alter the outcome of the study.

Dr. Gregersen, head of the Feinstein’s Robert S. Boas Center for Genomics and Human Genetics, said that about half of the Caucasian people in the US who were asked where in Europe their ancestors came from did not have a clue. Dr. Gregersen collaborated with Dr. Seldin to identify a few thousand genetic markers that are powerful enough to point to the region where an individual’s ancestors once resided, a tool that is much more reliable than asking a person about his or her ancestry.

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