Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Columbia University (2019)
  • Master of Philosophy, Columbia University (2018)
  • Master of Arts, Columbia University (2016)
  • Bachelor of Science, Hebrew University Of Jerusalem (2010)
  • Master of Science, Weizmann Institute Of Science (2012)

All Publications

  • Ancestral haplotype reconstruction in endogamous populations using identity-by-descent. PLoS computational biology Finke, K., Kourakos, M., Brown, G., Dang, H. T., Tan, S. J., Simons, Y. B., Ramdas, S., Schaffer, A. A., Kember, R. L., Bucan, M., Mathieson, S. 2021; 17 (2): e1008638


    In this work we develop a novel algorithm for reconstructing the genomes of ancestral individuals, given genotype or sequence data from contemporary individuals and an extended pedigree of family relationships. A pedigree with complete genomes for every individual enables the study of allele frequency dynamics and haplotype diversity across generations, including deviations from neutrality such as transmission distortion. When studying heritable diseases, ancestral haplotypes can be used to augment genome-wide association studies and track disease inheritance patterns. The building blocks of our reconstruction algorithm are segments of Identity-By-Descent (IBD) shared between two or more genotyped individuals. The method alternates between identifying a source for each IBD segment and assembling IBD segments placed within each ancestral individual. Unlike previous approaches, our method is able to accommodate complex pedigree structures with hundreds of individuals genotyped at millions of SNPs. We apply our method to an Old Order Amish pedigree from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, whose founders came to the United States from Europe during the early 18th century. The pedigree includes 1338 individuals from the past 12 generations, 394 with genotype data. The motivation for reconstruction is to understand the genetic basis of diseases segregating in the family through tracking haplotype transmission over time. Using our algorithm thread, we are able to reconstruct an average of 224 ancestral individuals per chromosome. For these ancestral individuals, on average we reconstruct 79% of their haplotypes. We also identify a region on chromosome 16 that is difficult to reconstruct-we find that this region harbors a short Amish-specific copy number variation and the gene HYDIN. thread was developed for endogamous populations, but can be applied to any extensive pedigree with the recent generations genotyped. We anticipate that this type of practical ancestral reconstruction will become more common and necessary to understand rare and complex heritable diseases in extended families.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008638

    View details for PubMedID 33635861

  • The population genetics of human disease: The case of recessive, lethal mutations PLOS GENETICS Amorim, C. G., Gao, Z., Baker, Z., Diesel, J., Simons, Y. B., Haque, I. S., Pickrell, J., Przeworski, M. 2017; 13 (9): e1006915


    Do the frequencies of disease mutations in human populations reflect a simple balance between mutation and purifying selection? What other factors shape the prevalence of disease mutations? To begin to answer these questions, we focused on one of the simplest cases: recessive mutations that alone cause lethal diseases or complete sterility. To this end, we generated a hand-curated set of 417 Mendelian mutations in 32 genes reported to cause a recessive, lethal Mendelian disease. We then considered analytic models of mutation-selection balance in infinite and finite populations of constant sizes and simulations of purifying selection in a more realistic demographic setting, and tested how well these models fit allele frequencies estimated from 33,370 individuals of European ancestry. In doing so, we distinguished between CpG transitions, which occur at a substantially elevated rate, and three other mutation types. Intriguingly, the observed frequency for CpG transitions is slightly higher than expectation but close, whereas the frequencies observed for the three other mutation types are an order of magnitude higher than expected, with a bigger deviation from expectation seen for less mutable types. This discrepancy is even larger when subtle fitness effects in heterozygotes or lethal compound heterozygotes are taken into account. In principle, higher than expected frequencies of disease mutations could be due to widespread errors in reporting causal variants, compensation by other mutations, or balancing selection. It is unclear why these factors would have a greater impact on disease mutations that occur at lower rates, however. We argue instead that the unexpectedly high frequency of disease mutations and the relationship to the mutation rate likely reflect an ascertainment bias: of all the mutations that cause recessive lethal diseases, those that by chance have reached higher frequencies are more likely to have been identified and thus to have been included in this study. Beyond the specific application, this study highlights the parameters likely to be important in shaping the frequencies of Mendelian disease alleles.

    View details for PubMedID 28957316

  • The deleterious mutation load is insensitive to recent population history. Nature genetics Simons, Y. B., Turchin, M. C., Pritchard, J. K., Sella, G. 2014; 46 (3): 220-224


    Human populations have undergone major changes in population size in the past 100,000 years, including recent rapid growth. How these demographic events have affected the burden of deleterious mutations in individuals and the frequencies of disease mutations in populations remains unclear. We use population genetic models to show that recent human demography has probably had little impact on the average burden of deleterious mutations. This prediction is supported by two exome sequence data sets showing that individuals of west African and European ancestry carry very similar burdens of damaging mutations. We further show that for many diseases, rare alleles are unlikely to contribute a large fraction of the heritable variation, and therefore the impact of recent growth is likely to be modest. However, for those diseases that have a direct impact on fitness, strongly deleterious rare mutations probably do have an important role, and recent growth will have increased their impact.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ng.2896

    View details for PubMedID 24509481