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BASQUE GENETICS

A team of researchers traveled to the States (July 2008) to trace the story of Basque immigrants through DNA samples.  An old people with hazy origins, DNA promises to reveal a bit more about this story.  They collected samples in Chino, Reno & Boise during their festivals.

Related links:
The National Geographic Genographic Project.  genographic.nationalgeographic.com

For basic, general genetics:  http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/

Modern Genetics and the Basques by Miquel Aguirre Martinez
http://www.buber.net/Basque/History/genetics.html

Irish-Basque genetic link:
Probably yes: http://www.nabasque.org/Astero/irish_genetic_link.htm
Probably no: http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/v13/n12/full/5201482a.html

Homogeneity of Spanish and French Basques, and genomic distinctiveness from other European populations: http://www.springerlink.com/content/l013t2673973t714/

British-Basque DNA connection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgqjLMESS78&feature=fvw
 


Genetics helps scientists determine Basque origins
Online source: http://www.stonepages.com/news/archives/000244.html

Genetics is helping researchers trace the migration of the Basque people, a culture that originated in East Africa tens of thousands of years ago. By first tracking the female gene back 150,000 years to East Africa, scientists then followed the male Y chromosome to determine human whereabouts.

As Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, adjunct professor for the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nexada, Reno (USA), explained at a recent presentation at Northeastern Nevada Museum as part of the National Basque Festival in Elko, "The Basque came out of East Africa 50,000 or so years ago and passed through the Middle East."

This explains why some Middle Eastern cities have names that could be Basque in origin, like Ur, Uruk, and Mari, which is the name of a Basque goddess.

According to Mallea-Olaetxe, linguists have long suspected such an idea since an old—now dead—language from Central Asia, Burushaski, "looks suspiciously like Basque". Genetic research is proving the linguists right.

After inhabiting Central Asia for about 10,000 years, Basque ancestors migrated to both the Americas and Western Europe, where they settled—and still live—in France and Spain. The cave paintings in southern France and northern Spain were likely painted by Basque ancestors 10,000 to 30,000 years ago, says Mallea-Olaetxe, which "fits perfectly" the timeline of their migration.

Since DNA research has also shown that the Celtic people’s genes are almost identical to the Basque’s, it is believed they may have migrated together to Western Europe 30,000 years ago.

Mallea-Olaetxe states that genetic research into Basque origins has been ongoing over the past decade or so; however, their conclusions have only been made public recently.

 

 


Story 1: EuskoSare
http://www.euskosare.org/english_corner/dna_genetic_thank_you


Story 2:
Matt Cilley / The Associated Press

Adrian Odriozola, left, administers a DNA test to Xanti Alcelay in Boise. Odriozola traveled 5,300 miles from his home in Spain to collect DNA samples in an attempt to answer why more Basques in Spain suffer from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, while Basques in the U.S. have a higher prevalence of diabetes. While in the U.S., Odriozola and his research partner, Eneko Sanz, gathered samples from 352 families.

By JESSIE L. BONNER - The Associated Press
Edition Date: 08/19/08

The research station was simple, a folding table parked on the front lawn of a small brick house that sheltered some of the first Basque sheepherders to immigrate to Idaho in the early 1900s.
But then Adrian Odriozola explains why he traveled about 5,300 miles from his home in Spain to be at a Basque festival in downtown Boise, and it gets quite a bit more complicated.
 
“We are trying to improve the health of the population,” said Odriozola, a doctoral student from the University of the Basque Country in Spain.
 
Odriozola was sent to the United States in early July to collect DNA samples from descendants of the Basque families that left their historically troubled homeland, where the Pyrenees Mountains separate Spain from France, and immigrated to a states such as Idaho, Nevada and California.
 
The goal: Collect enough DNA to support one of the most comprehensive genetic maps of the ethnic minority. The University of the Basque Country is funding the research and hopes to explain why large portions of Basques living in their homeland suffer from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and learn why diabetes is more prevalent among Basques living in the United States.
Odriozola and his research partner, 27-year-old history student Eneko Sanz, spent several weeks at festivals in California, Nevada and Idaho, where some 15,000 Basques live and make up the third-largest population in the world, behind Argentina and the Basque homeland on the Spanish-French border.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult,” Odriozola said. “At a festival people want to party.”
The day was still early when he stationed himself at his makeshift research station at the San Inazio Basque Festival in Boise. Odriozola surveyed the block of bars and restaurants, a neighborhood where Basque descendants congregate each year to honor Saint Ignatius.
 
The Boiseko Gasteak Basque Dancers wouldn’t perform for several more hours. Clear plastic cups were filled, for the most part, with nonalcoholic drinks.
And Odriozola, a 26-year-old foreigner who would spend the day persuading Basque descendants to gargle a vial of pink, cinnamon flavored mouthwash and fill out a 50-question survey about their health, was optimistic. “This will be our strong day,” he said.
 
As the festival rolled out live music, food and dancing, and then waned into the evening, Odriozola and Sanz had collected nearly 100 samples from people like Louise Murgoitio Gunderson.
Her grandparents immigrated from the Basque homeland near the end of the 1800s.

“It was a hard life in Spain,” said Gunderson, a 56-year-old budget officer with the U.S. attorney’s office in Boise.  She swigged down the pink vial of mouthwash, swished it around in her mouth for 10 seconds, and then spit the liquid back into the clear vial.  Then she started filling in a detailed survey about her and her family’s health.
• Did any of her relatives have a blood disorder?
• What about tumors? Skin diseases?
 
The process took about 10 minutes and Gunderson became “USA169-BOIDV2” in the study, where names are kept anonymous and vials will be identified by coded stickers and studied at a DNA bank at the University of the Basque Country.
There, researchers will try to determine whether environment or genetics played a role in how Basques descendants developed diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.
 
But first, the samples will be processed at a lab at Boise State University, where graduate student Mike Davis is also studying Basque DNA for his master’s thesis. Davis helped Odriozola and Sanz gather DNA in Idaho.
 
Altogether, the team collected about 400 samples from Nevada, California and Idaho before Odriozola and Sanz left the United States in late July to return to Spain to process the data they’ve collected so far. The pair will travel to Latin America later this year to collect more DNA samples.
 
Few migrant populations present such a perfect test case for explaining whether genetics or the environment is a bigger factor in why large numbers of Basque have developed certain diseases, Davis said.
 
The Basques offer a tight-knit population, essentially identical when it comes their DNA, but living in different countries.  “They’ve always had this sort of mystery about them,” Davis said. “Their language, nobody really knows where it came from.”  Linguists and historians haven’t been able to define the origin of the Basque language, called Euskera, and it has no definite link to any other widely spoken tongues in Europe, said John Bieter, acting director of the Basque Studies Center at Boise State University.
 
“This leaves the Basque as kind of a mysterious group,” Bieter said, “studying their DNA may be one way to unravel that mystery.”

Powerpoint (Spanish) outlining the data collection