Study: Isolated Finns have unique genes
Finns genetically closer to Dutch than Hungarians
Finns have been found to form a unique genetic island between Eastern and Western Europe.
The Finnish genetic makeup differs clearly from that of other European nations, says a new genetic atlas compiled by the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM.
“There have been influences from both the east, west, and south”, says FIMM researcher Samuli Ripatti.
“However, we have been isolated here to such a degree that the genotype has become unique.”
Eastern influence has come mainly from the area that is now Estonia.
Finns are genetically closer to the Estonians than they are to the Russians, who are represented on the map by residents of the Moscow area. Information from East Karelia will become available later this year, which might change the picture somewhat.
However, Ripatti says that the strongest influence in the Finnish genome comes from the west, via Sweden.
The study shows that nations who speak languages that are related to each other are not necessarily close genetically.
Finnish genes are closer to those of the Dutch than they are to those of the Hungarians, whose language is related to Finnish. Ripatti adds that genetically, the Swedes and Estonians are approximately equally close to the Finns.
Janne Saarikivi, Acting Professor of Finno-Ugric Languages at the University of Helsinki, does not see this as surprising.
“For instance, the genetic differences between the Finns and the Hungarians have been known for a long time. The languages have the same origin, but they have spread through different routes than the genes. This is quite common in history. For instance, hundreds of thousands of descendants of Swedish-speakers in Finland speak Finnish.”
There are striking genetic differences between dialect zones in Finland.
The residents of Kainuu in the northeast, and Finland Proper in the southwest are genetically more different than the Swedes are from the British.
The Helsinki region has an unusually great mixture of genetic material. He also emphasises that differences in national character cannot be directly derived from genetic heritage.
“However, people in the West of Finland are slightly taller than those from the east. There are also differences in the frequency of heart disease. Some of them can be explained by genes”, Ripatti says.
The gene map was drawn up in connection with health examinations of 40,000 volunteers. The data from foreign countries came from health researchers of the different countries.
The data helps in the study of the genetic background of diseases prevalent to Finland.
The project was guided by the recently deceased geneticist Leena Peltonen-Palotie.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Leena Peltonen-Palotie (1952-2010) (11.3.2010)
Viking gene suspected factor in multiple sclerosis (25.8.2005)
The Finno-Ugric connection, genetics-wise, could be bigger than imagined (30.1.2001)
FIMM: The new Finnish Gene Atlas places Finns on the world´s genetic map