A study of Indian genetic heritage in modern Thailand

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Early Thai stone inscriptions. Credit: David Wiley, Flickr (CC-BY 2.0,

A new genetic analysis reveals a new understanding of the genetic heritage of people living in Thailand today, indicating the potential importance of past migrations in the spread of Indian culture in the region. Pia Changmai of the University of the Islands, Czech Republic, and colleagues present these findings in an open access journal GENETICS PLOS February 17.

Mainland Southeast Asia has a complex population history and features of hundreds indigenous languages of five different specialties language family. During the first millennium AD – after the beginning of trade with India – Indian culture influenced the creation of the first states in the region, and this cultural influence remains evident today. However, few studies have properly examined the degree of evidence of pre-mixing of South Asian genetic lines in modern populations of Southeast Asia.

To give a clearer picture of such a genetic mix, Changmai and his colleagues conducted a genetic analysis of modern humans from Thailand’s 10 ethnic groups. The study focused on single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the whole genome, a type of variation found in different personalities‘different DNA sequences that may be linked to different genetic lines. The researchers combined SNP data from 119 modern humans with previously published genetic data from relevant populations and analyzed the entire data set using a variety of genetic techniques.

Various methods have yielded unequivocal results, finding evidence of a genetic impurity of South Asia in several different populations of mainland Southeast Asia that are known to have been influenced by Indian culture in the past. However, for the population of Southeast Asia, which has only recently emerged from cultural isolation, there was no evidence of South Asian impurities. These findings demonstrate the potential importance of past migrations of the Indian people in spreading Indian culture in the region.

Researchers have also found evidence of a close genetic link between people who speak languages ​​from the theft family and people who speak languages ​​from the Austronesian language family, which confirms the earlier linguistic hypothesis that two language families and may have a common origin.

Changmai adds, “India’s genetic heritage in Southeast Asian populations is indicative of numerous waves of migration from India to Southeast Asia in the past that may have been responsible for the spread of Indian culture in the region.”

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Additional information:
Changmai P, Jaisamut K, Kampuansai J, Kutanan W, Altınışık NE, Flegontova O et al. (2022) Indian genetic heritage in the populations of Southeast Asia. PLoS Genet 18 (2): e1010036.

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