Highlights from the Modern Human Genetic Variation Symposium

Earlier this year, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the   National Committee for Biological Sciences hosted a symposium on Modern Human Genetic Variation in Stockholm, Sweden. Over the course of the two day symposium a dozen of the most innovative  scientists in the field provided insights (to fellow researchers and the public) into the origins of genetic and phenotypic diversity of Homo sapiens. The focus of the meeting was to provide an  overview of the current understanding of the evolution of anatomically modern humans, creating a forum for discussion on the future of research in genetic variation. The themes of the symposium and key talks are discussed in a recently published meeting report in Investigative Genetics.

Exploring the evolutionary history of anatomically modern humans has long captivated the minds and imaginations of  researchers spanning a variety of disciplines, from genetics and paleoanthropology to history and linguistics. With such a wide range of researchers working in the area, encouraging interdisciplinary approaches was one of the main themes of the meeting, with an emphasis on the need for further collaboration between those working in different but interlinking fields. Since the meeting was naturally inclined towards genetics, it was understandable that the continued use of next-generation sequencing data featured, and its use in delineating patterns of human genomic diversity was central to many of the talks.

In his meeting report, Joshua Akey guides Investigative Genetics readers through the research discussed during the course of the symposium. He highlights particular themes; completing the current catalogue of human variation, the role of  demographic history in shaping genetic variation, archaic genomes and introgression with modern humans, research into  very recent human history, and human phenotypic variation. The broad range of topics highlighted in Akey’s meeting  report emphasizes the vast array of subjects that are of relevance when studying human evolutionary history. A key  concludes that ‘this dynamic meeting highlighted some of the most intriguing and exciting recent developments in studying  modern human genetic variation’. With an overwhelming trend for interdisciplinary research that has been seen over recent years, we can expect rapid advancement in this field leading to further discoveries in mapping our  evolutionary history.

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