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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ancient Polish admixture in Denmark

This ESHG 2016 presentation about Danish population structure is sure to be interesting. I wonder how the authors were able to discern ancient Polish admixture from more recent Polish admixture? Keep in mind that lots of Poles settled in Denmark during the past 150 years or so. For instance, former Danish national team goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel is half Polish. And Caroline Wozniacki is totally Polish.

Abstract: Denmark’s genetic history has never been studied in detail. In this work, we analysed genetic and anthropometrical data from ~800 Danish students as part of an outreach activity promoting genomic literacy in secondary education. DNA analysis revealed remarkable homogeneity of the Danish population after discounting contributions from recent immigration. This homogeneity was reflected in PCA and AMOVA, but also in more sophisticated LD-based methods for estimating admixture. Notwithstanding Denmark’s homogeneity, we observed a clear signal of Polish admixture in the East of the country, coinciding with historical Polish settlements in the region before the Middle Ages. In addition, Denmark has a substantially smaller effective population size compared to Sweden and Norway, possibly reflecting further lack of strong population structure. None of these three Scandinavian countries seems to have suffered a depression due to the Black Death in the Middle Ages. Finally, we used the students’ genetic data to predict their adult height after training a novel prediction algorithm on public summary statistics from large GWAS. We validated our prediction using the students’ self-reported height and found that we could predict height with a remarkable ~64% accuracy.

Athanasiadis et al., Nationwide genomic study in Denmark reveals remarkable population homogeneity, ESHG EMPAG 2016 Presentation Abstract, P18.091C

Update 24/08/2016: The paper is now available at Genetics and open access. See here: On the remarkable genetic homogeneity of Denmark.