Disclaimer: I am no geneticist, nor am I an anthropologist. I have a merely extra-curricular interest in history with a greater focus on its misuses to divide people rather than unify them . This interest is what gave birth to the wish-list at the bottom of this post.
I have been recently fascinated about the possibilities opened up by the International Hapmap project. Another blog also talked about the possible uses of the hapmap data to understand population history.
Since I was always fascinated by the cultural and ethnic diversity in India a sub-continent that has seen invasions, migrations and occupation by almost every great power to have ever risen in the old world, I was curious to see how much of diversity data was available for the Indian subcontinent. India it turns out is joining the PAN-Asian HUGO SNP mapping project co-ordinated by the IGIB. ALthough some Indian families did make it into the intial hapmap sampling having a detailed analysis of genetic variation among Indians will obviously have benefits to direct medical research and make it relevant to India and Indians , in addition it will have a very pronounced side-effect in that it will make it possible for us to understand what India really is made up of and how different all our sub-populations are.
I am particularly curious about such a hapmap and its ability to answer several questions and facts about India, particularly with regard to the North-south divide.
# How different are our different populations
# Is there a reason to believe that South Indians come from a genetically different stock than north Indians.
# The thalassemia argument according to which the northern part of India has a greater predominance of thalassemia which is common among European populations, a fact used to corroborate the North-South divide: does this correlate with other markers
# Our Indigenous people: how different are they from “mainstream” Indians
# As far as clinical trials and India go , should we be sampling many communities
# Does haplotype data have any light to shed on the effects of the gotra (an ancient geneology criterion used to guide matrimony among south Indian brahminical Indians) practice.
# Can we use the almost linear genealogies and combine them with haplotype data to get at multi-gene disorders than run in Indian sub-populations
# Is there any evidence for selection amongst Indians
Of course none of this is novel and several such approaches are underway in several countries. But just thought I would jot down this tangent ..and dub it ” populomics ” to justify its posting as part of this blog