The Irish DNA Atlas which has just been published in the journal Scientific Reports provides the first fine-scale genetic map of the island of Ireland.
The DNA Atlas, which was produced by researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons and the Genealogical Society of Ireland charts the genetic impact of major historical events such as the Norse Viking invasion and the Ulster Plantations as well as revealing genetic similarity in 10 distinct clusters.
The Atlas was developed by population geneticists and genealogists who came together to collect DNA samples from 196 Irish individuals with four generations of ancestry linked to specific areas across Ireland.
The analyses of the DNA, and comparison with thousands of further samples from Britain and Europe, are revealing seven clusters of Gaelic-Irish ancestry, and three of shared British-Irish ancestry.
Scientists expect that this genetic information will improve the diagnoses of diseases where genes play a strong role, particularly for people and populations with Irish roots.
The researchers involved in the study believe the work will help deliver on the vision of the new FutureNeuro Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, which is seeking to improve the diagnosis of rare neurological disorders and to personalise treatments of those.
“Having a genetic map of the Irish population will be invaluable in future studies of the genetic component of some common diseases in the Irish population, especially those diseases which show a difference in prevalence rates across the island of Ireland,” said Dr Sean Ennis, UCD ACoRD and Genomics Medicine Ireland.
Some of the information the Atlas has so far revealed include the findings that there are relatively high levels of people of Northwest French and West Norwegian origin in Ireland; that there is evidence of continual, low level migration between the north of Ireland and the south and west of Scotland; and that there are three genetic clusters with shared Irish-British ancestry which are mostly found in the north of Ireland and probably stem from the Ulster plantations.