Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Medicine

The Genetics of the Alaskan North Slope (GeANS) Project

Linking Communities through their Common History

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What is the reason for doing this study?

This research is being done to determine how communities are related to each other in order to learn more about the history of human groups and their settlement patterns along the North Slope of Alaska.  Specifically, we are interested in the following questions:

  • How are communities across the North Slope related to one another?  What are their unique histories/prehistories?
  • What is the history/prehistory of the Inupiat people?  What is the common history that links communities together?
  • What is the history/prehistory of populations in the North American Arctic?  What is the place of the Inupiat and their ancestors in this history?

We learn about history and prehistory from community elders, historians, and archaeologists.  Our history and prehistory also leave traces behind in our genes.  Studying genetic variation allows us to understand demographic (population size) history, human migrations, and relationships between the people who live along the North Slope today, and those that lived in this area in the past.

In our study we collected saliva (spit) samples, from which genetic material (DNA) was extracted, from Inupiat volunteers residing in communities across the North Slope of Alaska. We are typing different genetic markers and estimating their frequencies in these populations to address the questions above. For example, we have examined mitochondrial DNA markers, which you inherit from your mother, Y chromosome markers which males inherit from their fathers, and autosomal markers, which you inherit from both parents

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M. Geoffrey Hayes, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Molecular Medicine
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine