-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The earliest Native
Americans may have originated in a tiny mountainous region in
southern Siberia called the Altai, according to
The Altai is at the intersection of Russia, Mongolia, China and
Kazakhstan and "is a key area because it's a place that people have
been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years,"
Theodore Schurr, an associate professor in the anthropology
department at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a university
He and his colleagues conducted genetic analyses of people
living in the Altai and compared them to Native Americans. They
found unique mutations shared by both groups.
The researchers calculated how long these mutations took to
arise and estimated that the Altai people diverged genetically from
Native Americans 13,000 to 14,000 years ago. That fits with the
idea of people moving from Siberia into the Americas between 15,000
and 20,000 years ago, they said in the news release.
It's possible and even likely that more than one wave of people
crossed the ancient land bridge that linked Siberia with North
America. However, the Altai is the only geographic focal point from
which Native Americans can trace their heritage, according to
"It may change with more data from other groups, but, so far, even with intensive work in Mongolia, they're not seeing the same things that we are," he said.
This type of investigation could prove useful in terms of
biomedical research. For example, both Siberian and Native
Americans "seem susceptible to Westernization of diet and moving
away from traditional diets, but their responses in terms of blood
pressure and fat metabolism actually differ," Schurr said.
A combination of genetics research and traditional physical
anthropology may help researchers learn more about the factors
behind these differences.
The study was published Jan. 26 in the
American Journal of Human Genetics.
Genetic testing can answer questions about
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