Geneticists Reconstruct Population History of New York City; Findings Reported at ASHG 2015 Annual Meeting

By combining genetic data, ancestry information, and electronic health records, scientists have been able to identify neighborhood-level patterns of migration in the New York City area, according to research presented on Friday, October 9, at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to supplementing historical and census data, these sorts of findings can inform biomedical and public health efforts in New York and other locations, the study authors said. “New York City is an important point of entry and immigration, and has long been one of the major ‘melting pots’ of the world. The population structure there is complex and interesting from a variety of perspectives, including the genetic one,” said Gillian Belbin, M.S., a graduate student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) in New York City and first author on the study. “These days, other cities such as London and Shanghai are reaching the same levels of diversity as New York, and many of our methods and findings can be applied to those cities’ populations as well,” added Eimear Kenny, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at ISMMS and senior author on the study. Ms. Belbin and her colleagues are investigating a variety of questions related to migration into New York City, population transitions among its ethnic enclaves, and effects of historical events and trends on recent generation,s as well as during the last few centuries. They are using the ISMMS BioMed Biobank (, an anonymized database of electronic health record and genetic information from more than 32,000 ISMMS patients who have volunteered to share their medical data with researchers.
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