The Russian Federation is home to a variety of nationalities and populations. However, their genetic diversity has not been well-studied until recently. Existing research considers specific groups or select segments of the population’s genome. Comparison of full-genome data of various populations can be used to learn about the spread of diseases and the development of immunity to them. St. Petersburg State University’s Genome Russia Project encourages researchers from various organizations to develop a genetic database of the population of Russia.

The project has recently brought forth new results when researchers succeeded in comparing the full-genome data of several populations. In their work, the scientists analyzed 204 pre-existing genomes sourced from various ethnic groups and expanded them with 60 new genomes of natives of Pskov, Novgorod, and Yakutia. All in all, the group analyzed the data of 264 representatives of 55 ethnic groups.

Using specialized software developed at ITMO University, the researchers predicted the demographic history of three of these samples. That included various information on these groups’ development: when and how they split up, how their numbers increased, and for which reasons they migrated.

“We developed a program that presents the optimal demographic history based on the genome data of members of a population. For that purpose, we needed to calculate and analyze the frequency of appearance of various equilocal genes. Then, the software constructed a number of demographic histories to determine which one is the most likely based on the available data,” explains Ekaterina Noskova, a programmer from ITMO University’s Computer Technologies Laboratory.

The researchers found that, for instance, in the past, the inhabitants of Pskov, Novgorod, and Yakutia were all part of one population made up of approximately 2,000 people. The Yakuts had split off from the group some 7,000 years ago, while the Pskov and Novgorod groups separated from each other 1,200 years ago. Since that time, all three of these populations have drastically begun to increase in number.

According to the scientists, the comparison of various groups’ genome data, as well as their histories, helps better understand which genes cause disease and which ones prevent it. In order to do that, the data must be thoroughly analyzed and examined for correlations with diseases; this will be the goal of the joint study’s next stage.