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Gene trawl shows Druze are living "gene sanctuary"
A Druze child gestures during a protest against Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in the northern Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights February 14, 2008.
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Druze people of Israel are a genetic sanctuary of ancient lineages of DNA, researchers reported on Wednesday.Not only does the exclusive religious community offer a snapshot into the history of the Middle East, but their well-preserved diversity may provide opportunities for medical research, the team at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology said.
The researchers looked at mitochondrial DNA, a type of genetic material that is passed down virtually unchanged from mother to daughter. It can provide a kind of snapshot of the ancestry of a person.
"Altogether we sampled 311 different paternal households from 20 Druze villages in Northern Israel, and 208 surnames were identified," Karl Skorecki and colleagues wrote in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.
The mitochondrial DNA backed up the legendary origin of this close-knit religious group, believed to number 1 million or fewer.