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Most of the genetic variation in the human genome is organised into large, neat units called 'haplotype' blocks, which are similar among African, European and Asian populations, according to new research.

The findings, published in Science by a team of British, US and Nigerian scientists, are said to strengthen the case for building a haplotype map of the human genome, which is expected to make it easier, faster and cheaper to track disease-causing genes in the population.

The researchers, led by Stacey Gabriel of the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research, Massachusetts, United States examined haplotype patterns in more than 50 randomly chosen regions of the human genome in samples from Africa, Europe and Asia.

They found that the genome consists of blocks over which little recombination has occurred, and within which only a few common haplotypes occur.  

The results "make a strong case for building a haplotype map of the human genome," says David Altshuler, one of the researchers.

"Once the whole genome is characterised in terms of haplotypes, the amount of work required to map diseases should be decreased by twenty or fifty fold. This should greatly accelerate the search for disease genes."

© SciDev.Net 2002

Reference: Science 296, 2225 (2002)

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