Singapore sequencing project maps genes in Asians

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Whole-genome sequencing data for almost 5,000 people in Singapore were published on October 17 in the journal Cell, in what the researchers described as the largest genetic study of Asian populations in the world.

The study reflects a collaboration of organizations, including the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research; the National University Health System; and the SingHealth Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Institute of Precision Medicine. Across the genomes, the researchers identified 98.3 million genetic variants, of which more than half have not been previously reported in public databases (Cell, October 17, 2019, Vol. 179:3, pp. 736-749.e15).

Using genetic analyses, the researchers charted three populations in Singapore -- Chinese, Malay, and Indian -- noting how they intermingled over generations. The Chinese and Malay populations are most closely related, noted Liu Jianjun, PhD, deputy executive director at GIS and a professor at NUS, and colleagues. These three ethnic groups account for 80% of diversity in Asia, and the data could be used to better understand genetic factors underlying common conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

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