The founder effect is the reduction in genetic variation that results when a small subset of a large population is used to establish a new colony. The new population may be very different from the original population, both in terms of its genotypes and phenotypes. In some cases, the founder effect plays a role in the emergence of new species.
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Founder effect is a phenomenon in the work that we do that refers to the migration of a small group of people from a larger population to go settle in another environment. And they carry along with them a subset of genetic information that existed in the larger population. And because of that, carrying the subset, they actually reduce the amount of genetic variation that exists within a new population now. And as a result of that, they may emphasize certain phenotypes or certain genes, and all this may be deemphasized. So a founder effect can sometimes impact a population in such a way that they may have less of a particular type of gene or more of a particular type of gene. And it can change what we call phenotype, which is the things that we look at like your height, you know, your weight, or having a particular disease or not having a particular disease. So in effect that is what founder effect is.
Charles N. Rotimi, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health; Senior Investigator, Inherited Disease Research Branch
Dr. Rotimi is the director of the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health (CRGGH), whose mission is to advance research into the role of culture, lifestyle, genetics and genomics in health disparities. Dr. Rotimi develops genetic epidemiology models and conducts population genetics research that explores the patterns and determinants of common complex diseases in the African diaspora and other human populations. A key focus of Dr. Rotimi's research is understanding the triangular relationship between obesity, hypertension and diabetes, which together account for more than 80% of the health disparities between African Americans and European Americans.