The mysterious origin of North-Africans revealed by modern genetics

The mysterious origin of North-Africans revealed by modern genetics

LONDON (Tamurt) – Nowadays, the estimation of risk factors for human diseases is one of the key components of the health systems in the developed countries like USA and Europe. The prevention against degenerative diseases such as cancer and neurological diseases is one of the priorities for those countries to reduce the burden for the society.

We are satisfied and happy to announce that some research groups in the world are working on deciphering the genetic background of North African populations (Maghreb). The published study by the GME Variome consortium (http://www.humanvariomeproject.org), analyzed the genetic background of populations from North-Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Persian regions1,2. The results highlighted key findings in the settlement and migrations of local populations. Indeed, it appeared clearly that populations from Persia, North-Africa and Arabia have a little admixture to each other’s, this study demonstrated that all these populations are derived from primary settlements of the humans in these regions, confirming what is already known3,4. These populations are genetically far away from each other’s, as a comparable example, they differ as the populations from south Finland to Toscana in Italy.

In this study, in terms of medical implications, this situation relates a broad consanguinity practice, although justified somehow by the geography (1-2). This study is impressive, more than 1100 subject, it shows the importance of genetic studies in the discovery of new traits implicated in rare and hereditary diseases, mostly unknown and less studied. This situation is appealing for North-Africans to establish resources and tests for the population and for individuals carrying high risk for certain diseases.

From the cultural point, the situation is burning and controversial. As an example; the Turkish population showed about 20% admixture with Arabia and 10% with Persia. The North-African population, showed less than 0.2% admixture from Arabian and Persian populations, both together1,2. The Turkish speak Turkish and consider themselves as Turkish. In contrast to North-African who speak Berber or Arabic but they are reluctant to the debate about their culture and origin.

In order to avoid a controversy and to make the debate more productive, it is good to remember that modern countries are built on the basis of their cultural background, adding to that the respect of the universal values and the human rights.  The North-African region need to stand, to face future challenges, to believe on their Berber origins, quit tribalism and neo-feudalism, believe in the individual and build a collective political awareness. We think that North-Africa is not an end story, they opposed roman troupes and later, offered a dynasty of Emperors to Rome; they opposed Muslim invasion and later offered Andalusia. To summarize, the fundamentals are there.

To finish with medical implications of this study, the North-African population is confronted to devastating diseases (diabetes type 2, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases…) and the number of diagnosed cases is on the way of inflation, with the big handicap that they will be not enough resources to face the critical situation. The situation need profound thinking and organization to establish prevention strategies, educate the society to live a healthy, simple and sober life.

ImaZighen Imusnawen

References :

1 Characterization of Greater Middle Eastern genetic variation for enhanced disease gene discovery. Eric M Scott, et al. Nature Genetics. 48, 1071-1076 (2016);

2 Genomic landscape of the Greater Middle East. Tayfun Özçelik & Onur Emre Onat. Nature Genetics 48, 978-979 (2016)

3 Genomic ancestry of North Africans supports back-to-Africa migrations. Henn, B.M. et al. PLoS Genet. 8, e1002397 (2012).

4 North African Berber and Arab influences in the western Mediterranean revealed by Y-chromosome DNA haplotypes. Gérard, N., Berriche, S., Aouizérate, A., Diéterlen, F. & Lucotte, G. Hum. Biol. 78, 307–316 (2006).

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