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Doctor releases SLV Hispano DNA study results

Posted: Monday, Aug 23rd, 2010

VALLEY — A study of San Luis Valley Hispanos’ DNA resulted in obvious conclusions - plus a little mystery.

Dr. Harry Ostrer, with the Human Genetics Program in New York, NY, retrieved blood samples in February 2009 from residents in the San Luis area as well as Alamosa, Conejos and Pueblo who gathered at T’Anas in San Pablo/San Francisco to donate blood for his study.

Ostrer, principal investigator for the Hispano DNA Project, said the project’s purpose was “to shed light on the history and ancestry of Hispanos from northern New Mexico and southern Colorado” and “to compare the DNA of Hispanos with that of other Hispanic and Latino populations in the Americas.”

The purpose was not to provide individual characteristics but to present a broad picture “of the genetic heritage of the community,” he added.

Because the study looked at the broader picture, the participants’ DNA was mixed, technically known as “admixture.”

Dr. Ostrer has finally released his findings.

From testing the Hispano admixture, he discovered the following proportions: 50-60 percent European; 30-40 percent Native American; 1-5 percent West African; and 1-5 percent non-European (Middle Eastern.)

“The first two components of the admixture are not surprising, since the Spanish and Indian heritage of Hispanics is well known,” Dr. Ostrer stated in a letter to participants. “In fact, in May of this year, we published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the DNA of several Hispanic/Latino populations, including Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Mexicans. Our study showed that Hispanics and Latinos represent a highly diverse blend of European and Amerindian stock, with lesser contributions from African and non-European sources.”

Ostrer added that the non-European portion of the admixture probably originated in the Middle East in either Arab or Jewish populations, and then was brought to Spain and the Americas.

“The issue of Jewish ancestry in Hispanos remains an intriguing but unsettled question. In the next stage of our analysis we hope to learn more about that part of your heritage,” Ostrer told participants.

Ostrer and others have been involved in researching Jewish groups throughout the world and how they are related, literally. He and other researchers have concluded that “Jewishness” is not just a religious characterization but also a genetic one.

“... the studied Jewish populations represent a series of geographical isolates or clusters with genetic threads that weave them together,” wrote Ostrer and others in a recent trade journal article. “Over the past 3000 years, both the flow of genes and the flow of religious and cultural ideas have contributed to Jewishness.” - Atzmon et al, Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry, The American Journal of Human Genetics (2010.)

As Jews were dispersed throughout the world, so were their genetics so that DNA of people living in the San Luis Valley could be traced back, in part, to the Middle East.

“Each Diaspora group has distinctive genetic features ‘representative of each group’s genetic history,’ he [Ostrer] says, but each also ‘shares a set of common genetic threads’ dating back to their common origin in the Middle East,” Science Editor Sharon Begley wrote in a June article “The DNA of Abraham’s Children” in Newsweek.

She reported that Jews of the Diaspora (the scattering of Jews to countries outside of Palestine) share telltale genetic markers “supporting the traditional belief that Jews scattered around the world have a common ancestry.”

Begley wrote that according to Ostrer’s studies, Jewish populations “have retained their genetic coherence just as they have retained their cultural and religious traditions, despite migrations from the Middle East into Europe, North Africa, and beyond over the centuries.”

Even in the San Luis Valley.

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