Since school days, I read how Aryans, our ancestors entered India from North-West passes. But there were some who thought that our ancestors didn’t come from outside India. As I remember the noted Hindi poet Jai Sankar Prasad was of the later opinion. Perhaps genetics may remove the confusion about the origin of Indian.
Now a growing body of geneticists and anthropologists believe that India was a major first stop in that outmigration of humans out of Africa. That the tremendous genetic diversity originated in the sub-continent itself rather than as a result of the so-called ‘Aryan invasion’ that historians have theorized about.
Recent studies by Indian researchers show that their influence of Central Asia on the Indian gene pool was minor. One by CSIR’s Samir Brahmachari in collaboration with major Asian countries such as China and Indonesia and the other done by Lalji Singh, former director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in collaboration with American Universities, are likely to overturn all conventional theories about India’s role in the spread of the gene pool.
Singh had postulated recently that the “genetic diversity evolved in India itself as waves of settlers moved both north and south of the country, intermixing before migrating to other countries” and the results of his study to be out later this month are eagerly awaited. So after Africa, India became both a major genetic bridge and a pool for the rest of the world.
R. Pitchappan, Professor Emeritus, Immunology, Madurai Kamaraj University, compares the journey of early migrants as arriving on different trains from Africa-some came earlier and others later.
Those who subscribe to the theory of a single wave of migration to India believe that all the caste groups evolved from the same genetic pool, whether Brahmin or Shudra. And if it is true why should there be so much animosity and politics of castes in India.
And the findings of the Indian researchers lead to some other useful inferences: That some regions in Northern India are more susceptible to heart diseases while some populations in Rajasthan and Jammu have a genetic immunity that puts them at lower risk of HIV infections. As claimed, the trigger for Indian researchers has been the most spectacular scientific achievement since man walked on the moon: deciphering the book of human life.
Enthusiastic CSRI head Brahmachari talks of the promise of pharmacogenomics: “We should soon be able to do rapid tests to determine a patient’s genotype and then guide treatment with the most effective drugs apart from reducing adverse reactions.”
There is also the growing clamour to resort to gene therapy or the potential of using genes themselves to treat disease or enhance particular traits much like the research into stem cells. While genetics holds up the promise of revolutionising health care, there is need to be cautious about its use.
Genetic profiling would reveal some of the innermost secrets that could, for instance, be used by employers to weed out candidates found to be susceptible to certain ailments or diseases.
As claimed by the CSIR chief, Brahmchari, “India is the first country to do a disease-specific drug-response mapping on large populations.”
Let India and its scientists come out with more and more with similar solutions.