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Bene Israel: Study of Jewish community living in India

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A family of the Bene Israel community in India. Image source: wordpress.com
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The Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, in a letter written 800 years ago (circa 1200 CE), briefly mentioned a Jewish community living in India. It is anticipated that he referred to the Bene Israel community.

The Bene Israel community in West India is a unique community whose historical background before the 18th century other than their oral history remains largely unknown.

Oral history among Bene Israel holds that they are descendants of Jews whose ship wrecked on the Konkan shore, with only seven men and seven women surviving. Adding to the vagueness of Bene Israel origin is the fact that a similar story of seven surviving couples is found in the oral histories of other Indian populations.

Here is the Abstract of the Reasearch Article “The Genetics of Bene Israel from India Reveals Both Substantial Jewish and Indian Ancestry”:

Bene Israel members consider themselves as descendants of Jews, yet the identity of Jewish ancestors and their arrival time to India are unknown, with speculations on arrival time varying between the 8th century BCE and the 6th century CE.

Here, we characterize the genetic history of Bene Israel by collecting and genotyping 18 Bene Israel individuals. Combining with 486 individuals from 41 other Jewish, Indian and Pakistani populations, and additional individuals from worldwide populations, we conducted comprehensive genome-wide analyses based on FST, principal component analysis, ADMIXTURE, identity-by-descent sharing, admixture linkage disequilibrium decay, haplotype sharing and allele sharing autocorrelation decay, as well as contrasted patterns between the X chromosome and the autosomes.

The genetics of Bene Israel individuals resemble local Indian populations while at the same time constituting a clearly separated and unique population in India. They are unique among Indian and Pakistani populations we analyzed in sharing considerable genetic ancestry with other Jewish populations.

Putting together the results from all analyses point to Bene Israel being an admixed population with both Jewish and Indian ancestry, with the genetic contribution of each of these ancestral populations being substantial. The admixture took place in the last millennium, about 19–33 generations ago. It involved Middle-Eastern Jews and was sex-biased, with more male Jewish and local female contribution. It was followed by a population bottleneck and high endogamy, which can lead to increased prevalence of recessive diseases in this population.

This study provides an example of how genetic analysis advances our knowledge of human history in cases where other disciplines lack the relevant data to do so.

(The paper was originally published in plos.org. Read full paper here)

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More Than 1000 Gene Variants Linked to Educational Attainment Identified

However, the total influence of the genetic variants is small, explaining about four per cent of the variation in educational attainment across individuals, the scientists said

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The team analysed a combined 71 datasets comprising over 1.1 million participants with European ancestry from 15 different countries and who were least 30 years old. Pixabay

An international team of scientists has identified nearly 1,300 genetic variants associated with how much education someone may complete.

Educational attainment is primarily influenced by environmental and social factors, but it is also influenced by genes associated with, for example, cognitive function such as memory and personality traits such as conscientiousness.

“We found that many of the genes associated with educational attainment are influential in virtually all stages of brain development and in neural communication within the brain,” said Peter Visscher, Professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Genetic variants on the X chromosome explain virtually identical amounts of variation in men and women.

This finding, published in the journal Nature Genetics, lends support to the hypothesis that there are no genetically based sex differences in the amount of variation in educational attainment.

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Genetic variants on the X chromosome explain virtually identical amounts of variation in men and women. Pixabay

However, the total influence of the genetic variants is small, explaining about four per cent of the variation in educational attainment across individuals, the scientists said.

“Even variants with the largest effects predict, on average, only about three more weeks of schooling in those who have those variants compared to those who don’t,” said Daniel Benjamin, Associate Professor at University of Southern California (USC)- Dornsife.

“Yet, when we analyze the combined effects of many genetic variants, taken together they can predict the length of a person’s formal education as well as demographic factors,” he added.

Also Read: New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes And Heart Failure

While the new number is far more than the 74 variants initially discovered in a smaller study two years ago, there are many other genetic variants associated with educational attainment that have not yet been identified, the researchers said.

For the study, the team analysed a combined 71 datasets comprising over 1.1 million participants with European ancestry from 15 different countries and who were least 30 years old. (IANS)

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