A new study has discovered that an Inuit population in Canada’s Arctic are genetically distinct from any identified group, and specific genetic variants correlated with a brain aneurysm.
Geographically isolated populations often develop unique genetic traits that result from their successful adaptation to specific environments. Unfortunately, these adaptations sometimes predispose them to particular health issues if the situation is changed. The genetic background of these populations is often poorly understood because they reside far from scientific research centers.
Canada’s Inuit have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disorders, as well as an increased incidence of brain aneurysms than the general population. To learn about the potential genetic origin of these disorders, researchers at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital) of McGill University analyzed the genetic characteristics of 170 Inuit volunteers from Nunavik, a region of northern Quebec. This was completed with approval from Nunavik Nutrition and Health Committee in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik.
Utilizing exome sequencing and genome-wide genotyping, the researchers discovered several attractive traits among the many Nunavik Inuit. They’re definite genetic inhabitants, whose closest family members are the Paleo-Eskimos, people who inhabited the Arctic before the Inuit.
The Nunavik Inuit have distinct genetic signatures in pathways involving lipid metabolism and cell adhesion. These may be adaptations to adjust to the high-fat diet and extreme cold of the Canadian north.
One of these unique genetic variants correlates with a higher risk of a brain aneurysm, also known as an intracranial aneurysm, a weakening in the wall of a cerebral artery that causes ballooning. In critical cases, the arterial wall could rupture, a potentially fatal condition often known as a brain hemorrhage.
This study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first genetic research to highlight the genome-broad architecture of Nunavik Inuit with emphasis on real choice in gene coding areas, from which may arise the genetic risk responsible for their predisposition to diseases such as an intracranial aneurysm.
Non-European populations, particularly those isolated people in remote areas of the world, are underrepresented, or not present at all, in genetics studies. Understanding the genetic makeup of non-European peoples, particularly these isolated populations with unique genetic background, such as Nunavik Inuit, will improve our ability to deliver medical therapies tailored for them.