Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Department of Medicine
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The Genetics of the Alaskan North Slope Project

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Linking Communities Through Their Common History

 

 

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, PhD
Assistant Professor
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

 Faculty

hayesM. Geoffrey Hayes an Assistant Professor of Endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Hayes' research interests lie in both evolutionary population genetics and genetic epidemiology. The evolutionary population genetic projects include the examination of genetic profiles of prehistoric and contemporary populations from the North American Arctic and Subarctic to better understand human population histories in these regions. This research has afforded Hayes the opportunity to conduct field research in the Aleutian Islands and the Alaskan North Slope. His genetic epidemiology projects involve the identification of genetic risk factors underlying common, complex genetic traits and diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and related metabolic, pulmonary, reproductive and cardiovascular traits, as well as the development of new methods to conduct such studies. Dr. Hayes' particular specialty in genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics is the design and implementation of genomewide association studies.

raffJennifer Raff is a Research Fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, and will be joining the faculty in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kansas in the Fall of 2015.  Her work focuses on understanding the genetic diversity and population history of contemporary and ancient peoples in the Americas, with a special focus on the North American Arctic, and the Midcontinental United States.

 Contact Us

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

303 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-3008
ghayes@northwestern.edu

Jennifer Raff, PhD
Research Fellow
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas, Austin
jenniferraff@utexas.edu

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