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Culture & Religion

Jewish Genetics: Harry Ostrer Discovers Ashkenazim and Sephardim Ancestral Similarities

Past Big Think interviewee Dr. Harry Ostrer made headlines today for discovering a genetic closeness between the two Jewish communities of Europe, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. According to the New York Times article Dr. Ostrer, who serves as the Director of the Human Genetics Program at

New York University, developed a method for timing demographic events

from the genetic similarities between Jewish communities along with Dr. Gil Atzmon of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Some of the shared genetic elements show that Jewish community members are related to one another as closely as fourth or fifth cousins in a large population, which is almost ten times higher than the relationship between two random people chosen off the streets of New York City.

Ostrer joined Big Think to participate in our series, “The Personal Genome,” which examined the promises and perils of genetic information becoming a part of our everyday life. During the talk, Dr. Ostrer criticized

companies that offer home DNA tests

. He also said in the years to come he envisions

predictive genetic tests for prostate cancer, breast cancer and



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