A new genetic study, the largest of its kind, has found a genetic link between seven distinct groups of Jews, confirming a communal origin in the Middle East. The study, which was led by Harry Ostrer, a geneticist at New York University School of Medicine, and published yesterday in The American Journal of Human Genetics, proved that while Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Italian, Turkish, Greek and Ashkenazi Jews all have their own genetic signature, they show some overlap.
Researchers discovered that 2,500 years ago Iranian and Iraqi Jews separated from European and Syrian Jews and formed distinct groups, but with a common origin. They also learned that any two Ashkenazi Jews are likely to share as much DNA as fourth or fifth cousins.
The findings of the study will help researchers to better understand disease genes present in ethnic groups, including the breast cancer gene common in Ashkenazi Jews.
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Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.
Jews Share Genetic Roots