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Beginning to investigate Lactase Persistence in Turkana

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Lactase persistence is the ability of adults to digest lactose in milk (Segurel & Bon, 2017). Mammals are generally distinguished by their mammary glands which gives females the ability to produce milk and feed their newborn children. The new born

Lactase persistence is the ability of adults to digest lactose in milk (Segurel & Bon, 2017). Mammals are generally distinguished by their mammary glands which gives females the ability to produce milk and feed their newborn children. The new born therefore requires the ability to breakdown the lactose in the milk to ensure its proper digestion (Segurel & Bon, 2017). Generally, humans lose the expression of lactase after weaning, which prevents them being able to breakdown lactose from dairy (Flatz, 1987).
My research is focused on the people of Turkana, a human pastoral population inhabiting Northwest Kenya. The people of Turkana are Nilotic people that are native to the Turkana district. There are currently no conclusive studies done on evidence for genetic lactase persistence in Turkana. Therefore, my research will be on the evolution of lactase persistence in the people of Turkana. The goal of this project is to investigate the evolutionary history of two genes with known involvement in lactase persistence, LCT and MCM6, in the Turkana. Variants in these genes have previously been identified to result in the ability to digest lactose post-weaning age. Furthermore, an additional study found that a closely related population to the Turkana, the Massai, showed stronger signals of recent selection for lactase persistence than Europeans in these genes. My goal is to characterize known variants associated with lactase persistence by calculating their allele frequencies in the Turkana and conduct selection scans to determine if LCT/MCM6 show signatures of positive selection. In doing this, we conducted a pilot study consisting of 10 female Turkana individuals and 10 females from four different populations from the 1000 genomes project namely: the Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria (YRI); Luhya in Webuye, Kenya; Utah Residents with Northern and Western European Ancestry (CEU); and the Southern Han Chinese. The allele frequency calculation suggested that the CEU (Utah Residents with Northern and Western European Ancestry) population had a higher lactase persistence associated allele frequency than all the other populations analyzed here, including the Turkana population. Our Tajima’s D calculations and analysis suggested that both the Turkana population and the four haplotype map populations shows signatures of positive selection in the same region. The iHS selection scans we conducted to detect signatures of positive selection on all five populations showed that the Southern Han Chinese (CHS), the LWK (Luhya in Webuye, Kenya) and the YRI (Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria) populations had stronger signatures of positive selection than the Turkana population. The LWK (Luhya in Webuye, Kenya) and the YRI (Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria) populations showed the strongest signatures of positive selection in this region. This project serves as a first step in the investigation of lactase persistence in the Turkana population and its evolution over time.

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Date Created
2019-05

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Genie: A Population Genetics Simulation Built with JavaScript

Description

The modern web presents an opportunity for educators and researchers to create tools that are highly accessible. Because of the near-ubiquity of modern web browsers, developers who hope to create educational and analytical tools can reach a large au- dience

The modern web presents an opportunity for educators and researchers to create tools that are highly accessible. Because of the near-ubiquity of modern web browsers, developers who hope to create educational and analytical tools can reach a large au- dience by creating web applications. Using JavaScript, HTML, and other modern web development technologies, Genie was developed as a simulator to help educators in biology, genetics, and evolution classrooms teach their students about population genetics. Because Genie was designed for the modern web, it is highly accessible to both educators and students, who can access the web application using any modern web browser on virtually any device. Genie demonstrates the efficacy of web devel- opment technologies for demonstrating and simulating complex processes, and it will be a unique educational tool for educators who teach population genetics.

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Date Created
2015-05

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Analyzing the Spread of Chikungunya in the Caribbean 2013-2015

Description

This work examines one dimension of the effect that complex human transport systems have on the spread of Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV) in the Caribbean from 2013 to 2015. CHIKV is transmitted by mosquitos and its novel spread through the Caribbean

This work examines one dimension of the effect that complex human transport systems have on the spread of Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV) in the Caribbean from 2013 to 2015. CHIKV is transmitted by mosquitos and its novel spread through the Caribbean islands provided a chance to examine disease transmission through complex human transportation systems. Previous work by Cauchemez et al. had shown a simple distance-based model successfully predict CHIKV spread in the Caribbean using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) statistical methods. A MCMC simulation is used to evaluate different transportation methods (air travel, cruise ships, and local maritime traffic) for the primary transmission patterns through linear regression. Other metrics including population density to account for island size variation and dengue fever incidence rates as a proxy for vector control and health spending were included. Air travel and cruise travel were gathered from monthly passenger arrivals by island. Local maritime traffic is approximated with a gravity model proxy incorporating GDP-per-capita and distance and historic dengue rates were used for determine existing vector control measures for the islands. The Caribbean represents the largest cruise passenger market in the world, cruise ship arrivals were expected to show the strongest signal; however, the gravity model representing local traffic was the best predictor of infection routes. The early infected islands (<30 days) showed a heavy trend towards an alternate primary transmission but our consensus model able to predict the time until initial infection reporting with 94.5% accuracy for islands 30 days post initial reporting. This result can assist public health entities in enacting measures to mitigate future epidemics and provide a modelling basis for determining transmission modes in future CHIKV outbreaks.

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Date Created
2015-12

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Genetic diversity across the pseudoautosomal boundary varies across human populations

Description

Unlike the autosomes, recombination on the sex chromosomes is limited to the pseudoautosomal regions (PARs) at each end of the chromosome. PAR1 spans approximately 2.7 Mb from the tip of the proximal arm of each sex chromosome, and a pseudoautosomal

Unlike the autosomes, recombination on the sex chromosomes is limited to the pseudoautosomal regions (PARs) at each end of the chromosome. PAR1 spans approximately 2.7 Mb from the tip of the proximal arm of each sex chromosome, and a pseudoautosomal boundary between the PAR1 and non-PAR region is thought to have evolved from a Y-specific inversion that suppressed recombination across the boundary. In addition to the two PARs, there is also a human-specific X-transposed region (XTR) that was duplicated from the X to the Y chromosome. Genetic diversity is expected to be higher in recombining than nonrecombining regions, particularly because recombination reduces the effects of linked selection, allowing neutral variation to accumulate. We previously showed that diversity decreases linearly across the previously defined pseudoautosomal boundary (rather than drop suddenly at the boundary), suggesting that the pseudoautosomal boundary may not be as strict as previously thought. In this study, we analyzed data from 1271 genetic females to explore the extent to which the pseudoautosomal boundary varies among human populations (broadly, African, European, South Asian, East Asian, and the Americas). We found that, in all populations, genetic diversity was significantly higher in the PAR1 and XTR than in the non-PAR regions, and that diversity decreased linearly from the PAR1 to finally reach a non-PAR value well past the pseudoautosomal boundary in all populations. However, we also found that the location at which diversity changes from reflecting the higher PAR1 diversity to the lower nonPAR diversity varied by as much as 500 kb among populations. The lack of genetic evidence for a strict pseudoautosomal boundary and the variability in patterns of diversity across the pseudoautosomal boundary are consistent with two potential explanations: (1) the boundary itself may vary across populations, or (2) that population-specific demographic histories have shaped diversity across the pseudoautosomal boundary.

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Date Created
2016-12