One factor is the biradari social system.
The findings from a study of Bradford’s British Pakistanis will have an important impact on finding the roots of common illnesses.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Leeds, the Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) and their collaborators.
It reveals how the structure of Bradford’s British Pakistani population has been shaped over approximately 2,000 years by the biradari system, a practice of marrying within clans.
This research will ensure that British Pakistanis are represented in medical research into common illnesses and the community will benefit from new knowledge and therapies that emerge.
Recently, studies of non-Europeans have started to provide a more complete picture of human genetic diversity and associated medical implications.
History and culture have influenced the genetic make-up of populations from different parts of the world.
One factor is the biradari social system. This has been practised in Pakistani populations for centuries. People tended to marry within their community to reinforce hereditary social status, occupation, and land ownership.
Researched analysed genomes from over 4,000 Pakistani-ancestry individuals, as well as self-reported information about their family history.
Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Leeds analysed the genomic data to map the fine-scale population structure and explore the demographic history of British Pakistanis.
While Bradford Pakistani groups were found to be genetically similar to other Pakistani and Indian populations, the study found evidence that the biradari social system has played an important role in shaping genetic variation.
Participants shared the same genetic history until around 2,000 years ago when they began separating into biradari groups.
Dr Mark Iles, a senior author of the study from the University of Leeds, said:
“The study represents a step forward in the potential benefits of genetic research for marginalised populations, consistent with a wish to broaden the knowledge base and clinical benefits of genetic studies.”
The detailed genetic structure will help researchers to design future studies and search for common illnesses associated with these and other health problems.
The aim is to improve the diagnoses and treatment of these diseases.
Dr Hilary Martin, a senior author of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said:
“I hope our findings will provide a foundation for future research into the causes of genetic disease in Pakistani populations.”