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Have you ever wondered where the Irish get their light skin color from? It appears we may now have the answer. Photo by: Photocall Ireland

Irish fair skin can be traced to India and the Middle East

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Have you ever wondered where the Irish get their light skin color from? It appears we may now have the answer. Photo by: Photocall Ireland

Have you ever wondered where the Irish get their light skin color from? Well, it appears we may now have the answer.

A major new US study at Penn State University has found that Europeans' light skin stems from a gene mutation from a single person who lived 10,000 years ago.

Scientists made the discovery after identifying a key gene that contributes to lighter skin color in Europeans, and the Irish fall into this category.

The Mail Online reports that, in earlier research, Keith Cheng from Penn State College of Medicine reported that one amino acid difference in the gene SLC24A5 is a key contributor to the skin color difference between Europeans and West Africans. This is undoubtedly where the Irish get their light skin from.

"The mutation in SLC24A5 changes just one building block in the protein, and contributes about a third of the visually striking differences in skin tone between peoples of African and European ancestry," he said.

Cheng and his team studied segments of genetic code that have a mutation and are located closely on the same chromosome and are often inherited together.

The mutation, called A111T, is found in virtually everyone of European ancestry.

A111T is also found in populations in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, but not in high numbers in Africans.

All individuals from the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South India who carry the A111T mutation share traces of the ancestral genetic code. According to the researchers, this indicates that all existing instances of this mutation originate from the same person.

The pattern of people with this lighter skin color mutation suggests that the A111T mutation occurred somewhere between the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

‘This means that Middle Easterners and South Indians, which includes most inhabitants of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, share significant ancestry,’ Professor Cheng said.

Professor Cheng now plans to look at more genetic samples to better understand what role genes play in East Asian skin color. Perhaps he will take a look into where Irish redheads come from after this.

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