The largest-ever study of Arab genomes has revealed the most ancient of all modern Middle Eastern populations and is shedding light on how modern humans may have first expanded across the globe.
The Arabian Peninsula — which today includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — has long served as a key crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia. Recent archaeological, fossil and DNA findings suggest that analyzing the Middle East and its people could reveal more about how modern humans first made their way out of Africa and to the rest of the world.
Until now, the genetics of Arab populations was largely understudied. In the new study, researchers conducted the first large-scale analysis of the genetics of a Middle Eastern population, examining DNA from 6,218 adults randomly recruited from Qatari health databases and comparing it with the DNA of people living in other areas of the world today and DNA from ancient humans who once lived in Africa, Europe and Asia.
“This study is the first large-scale study on an Arab population,” study co-senior author Younes Mokrab, head of the medical and population genomics lab at Sidra Medicine in Doha, Qatar, told Live Science.
The scientists found that DNA from Middle Eastern groups made significant genetic contributions to European, South Asian and even South American communities, likely due to the rise and spread of Islam across the world over the past 1,400 years, with people of Middle Eastern descent interbreeding with those populations, they said.
“Arab ancestry is a key ancestral component in many modern populations,” Mokrab said. “This means what would be discovered in this region would have direct implications to populations elsewhere.” [Continue reading…]