Genetic variation in North America

Published on April 21, 2015   31 min

Other Talks in the Series: Human Population Genetics II

Hello, my name is Ripan Malhi, and I am an associate professor in Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In this lecture, I will provide you with scientific results and findings about genetic variation of indigenous peoples of North America. Specifically, I will focus on genetic variation in modern people through the analysis of DNA from fresh tissue, like blood or saliva, and also genetic variation in ancient peoples through the analysis of ancient DNA, or degraded DNA, from ancient tissue such as skeletal remains.
Here is an outline for the lecture to help orient you. First, before discussing any DNA results, I want to talk about the ethical and social implications of genetic research with indigenous communities. Then I'll focus on how many of the research studies focused on genetic variation in North America have taken a multidisciplinary approach, especially when investigating the initial people of the Americas. And then, for a majority of the lecture, I'll highlight research results on patterns of genetic variation of indigenous populations of the Americas and how we can use this information to investigate the evolutionary history of Native Americans.
Before getting into the details of genetic studies, it is important to discuss the ethical and social implications of research with indigenous communities. In the past, Native Americans have had difficult encounters with science, and, in some cases, this antagonistic relationship continues today. Often, the lack of communication by scientists to the community members involved in the study contributes to this friction. A good example of this is when Arizona researchers collected blood samples from the Havasupai Tribe to study genetic contributions to Type 2 diabetes. Ultimately, the blood samples were used for research of other diseases as well as migration history. When members of the Havasupai Tribe discovered that their blood was being used for research beyond Type 2 diabetes, they brought a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents. This case was settled in 2010, where community members received $700,000 plus other benefits. This case raised many questions about how research is conducted with indigenous communities, and the case was even depicted in a play called Informed Consent.