Mixing our genes through sex helps purge us of disease mutations

Researchers at the University of Montreal and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre in Montréal, Canada have just shown how humanity’s predispositions to disease gradually decrease the more we mix our genetic material together. This discovery was finally made possible by the availability in recent years of repositories of biological samples and genetic data from different populations around the globe.

Philip Awadalla and his team studied the sequenced genomes of hundreds of individuals from Canada’s CARTaGENE genetic data repository and the multinational 1000 Genomes Project. They found that the proportion of mutations associated with disease was significantly higher in low recombining segments known as “coldspots” relative to highly recombining regions, and that the bad mutations in these coldspots were generally more damaging than the mutations in the highly recombining segments.

The team was able to compare this phenomenon across four present-day population basins: Africans, Asians, Europeans and Canadians of French descent. Each of these genetic groups exhibit the above behaviour to varying degrees. African individuals showed the smallest relative proportion of disease-associated mutations on their genome’s coldspots, with Western Europeans showing the largest. 

To read the press release, click here.

To learn more on the study published in Nature Genetics, click here.