Impact of Demographic History and Local Adaptation on Population Diversity and Health: Studies from Africa
Michèle Ramsay University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
The genetic diversity of extant populations is shaped by historical events that include migration, admixture, selection, new mutations and random drift. Over the past 5000 years the human landscape across Africa has changed through extensive migration events, including the Bantu-expansion and movements back into the continent from Eurasia, followed by admixture. In addition, there has been extensive out migration characterized by older and more recent diaspora events spreading African genetic variation across the new world. These events have important consequences for human health and susceptibility to disease. Examples of forces of natural selection on the continent that influenced regional allele frequencies include malaria, trypanosomiasis, UV exposure and the domestication of cattle. Health translational science therefore requires research on populations in Africa as transferability of knowledge form well-studied European and Asian populations is not a given. Novel discovery and validation studies will play an important role to ensure that African populations can also benefit from a precision medicine approach.
The work of the Ramsay Laboratory is primarily supported by the South African National Research Foundation and Department of Science and Technology, the University of the Witwatersrand and the US National Institutes of Health (Grant number: U54HG006938).