Sarah Tishkoff

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Sarah Tishkoff
Born1965 (age 52–53)
Alma mater
EmployerUniversity of Pennsylvania

Sarah A. Tishkoff (born 1965) is an American geneticist who is the David and Lyn Silfen Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. One of her focuses is the genetic history of African populations, including the causes for lactase persistence among some African population groups.

Education and career[edit]

Tishkoff received a Bachelor of Science degree with a focus on anthropology and genetics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, a Master of Science degree in human genetics from Yale University in 1992 and achieved a PhD in genetics from Yale in 1996 with Kenneth Kidd as her advisor.[1][2]

Tishkoff was a fellow at Pennsylvania State University from 1997–2000 and worked as an assistant professor and later associate professor at the University of Maryland from 2000–2007. She became an associate David and Lyn Silfen University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008 and a full professor in 2012.[1][2]


Tishkoff was lead writer of the 2007 paper "Convergent adaptation of human lactase persistence in Africa and Europe" which was published in Nature Genetics. The paper documented three new single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for lactase persistence among ethnic groups in East-Africa. These mutations were different from the mutation for lactose tolerance that is common in Europe (C/T-13910). The most widespread mutation was found among Nilo-Saharan speaking groups in Tanzania and Kenya while two independent mutations were found among the Beja people in Sudan and Afroasiatic speaking people in Kenya.[3][4] The SNPs did not however fully explain the ability among some African persons to digest milk. A 2014 study published in American Journal of Human Genetics documented two more SNPs that could be linked to lactose tolerance, although causation was not firmly established. The study also found the European variant C/T-13910 among some pastoralist groups in Northern and Central Africa.[5][6][7]

Science Education[edit]

Professor Tishkoff was one of three scientists who participated in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Holiday Lecture Series on Bones, Stones, and Genes: The Origin of Modern Humans. These themed events provide a free science education materials online to "help bridge the gap between the textbook and the latest scientific findings."[8]



  1. ^ a b Giovanni Destro-Bisol (1 October 2011) Interview with Sarah Tishkoff: Perspectives for Genetic Research in African Populations Human Biology. Access via HighBeam
  2. ^ a b c Curriculum Vitae University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 15 March 2014
  3. ^ Nicholas Wade (11 December 2006) Lactose Tolerance in East Africa Points to Recent Evolution New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2014
  4. ^ Sarah A Tishkoff et al. (2007) Figure 3 - Genotype-phenotype association for G/C-14010, T/G-13915 and C/G-13907 Nature. Retrieved 15 March 2014
  5. ^ Genetic Origins of Lactase Persistence and the Spread of Pastoralism in Africa (abstract) Retrieved 15 March 2014
  6. ^ Antti Sajantila (31 March 2014) Editors’ Pick: milk sugar, migration and pastoralism in Africa Investigative Genetics. Retrieved 25 June 2014
  7. ^ University of Pennsylvania/Science Daily (13 March 2014)Africans' ability to digest milk linked to spread of cattle raising Science Daily.
  8. ^ "Holiday Lectures | HHMI BioInteractive". Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  10. ^, National Academy of Sciences -. "Sarah Tishkoff". Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  11. ^ "National Academy of Sciences Elects Four Penn Professors | Penn Today". Penn Today. Retrieved 2018-09-07.

External links[edit]