In 2006 we established the Laboratory of Human Genetic Diversity in the Department of Biology of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil). Our group’s research integrates concepts and tools of population genetics, genetic epidemiology, bioinformatics and functional genetics. The overarching objective is to enhance our understanding of evolution and the genetic bases of complex traits and diseases, with an emphasis on immune-related genes and their influence on infection and cancer. We have a particular interest in native and admixed populations of Latin America in the context of global human genomic diversity.

We are located at the Department of Biology of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil).

The Latin American population includes ~580 million individuals [1]. More than 50 million are Native Americans and share thousands of years of their evolutionary history with autochthonous populations from the U.S. and Canada, and more than 500 million are mestizos, a product of admixture of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans. Immigrants from Latin America and their descendants will comprise the largest minority in the U.S. by 2050. The HapMap Project fostered a revolution in our knowledge of genetic determinants of complex diseases through genome-wide association studies (GWAS), and the integrated knowledge of genetic variants and other risk factors form the basis of the promise of personalized genomic medicine. However, most of this work was focused on populations of European ancestry and it is not clear how it is applicable to other populations [2], including Native Americans, who are the most underrepresented group in genetic studies.

The first Native Americans arrived to the continent more than 12,000 years ago from Asia via the Bering Strait. Their >10,000 year isolation from Old World populations led to some genetic variants with frequencies very different from modern day Asians, Europeans, and Africans. While most of these variants lack biomedical relevance, some may be involved in differential susceptibilities to common diseases. By identifying and characterizing these variants, we will address the lack of knowledge on determinants of complex diseases in non-European populations.

Our goal is to understand the biomedical and clinical implications of the genomic variations of Latin Americans, focusing on nucleotide diversity and structural variation, with a specific focus on immune-related genes. 


[1] Salzano FM, Bortolini MC. 2001. The evolution and genetics of Latin American populations. 528 pp. Cambridge University Press.

[2] Rosenberg NA et al. 2010. Genome-wide association studies in diverse populations. Nat Rev Genet 11:356-66.


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