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Perspective
Nature Genetics  36, S28 - S33 (2004)
Published online: ; | doi:10.1038/ng1435

Genetic variation, classification and 'race'

Lynn B Jorde & Stephen P Wooding

Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA.

Correspondence should be addressed to Lynn B Jorde lbj@genetics.utah.edu
New genetic data has enabled scientists to re-examine the relationship between human genetic variation and 'race'. We review the results of genetic analyses that show that human genetic variation is geographically structured, in accord with historical patterns of gene flow and genetic drift. Analysis of many loci now yields reasonably accurate estimates of genetic similarity among individuals, rather than populations. Clustering of individuals is correlated with geographic origin or ancestry. These clusters are also correlated with some traditional concepts of race, but the correlations are imperfect because genetic variation tends to be distributed in a continuous, overlapping fashion among populations. Therefore, ancestry, or even race, may in some cases prove useful in the biomedical setting, but direct assessment of disease-related genetic variation will ultimately yield more accurate and beneficial information.

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Nature Genetics
ISSN: 1061-4036
EISSN: 1546-1718
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