Tay-Sachs is a rare autosomal recessive genetic disorder. Research in the late 20th century demonstrated that Tay–Sachs disease is caused by a genetic mutation in the HEXA gene on (human) chromosome 15.
In 1887, American neurologist Bernard Sachs of Mount Sinai Hospital, New York ,noted an increased disease prevalence in the Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish population.
Peter Frost , Université Laval,Quebec City,Canada, questioned:Is the increased Tay-Sachs prevalence in the Eastern EuropeanAshkenazi Jewish population a case of gene-culture co-evolution?The following is the general ideas:
Tay-Sachs, an inherited neurological disorder, is unusually common among French Canadians from eastern Quebec. Two alleles are responsible, one being specific to the north shore of the St. Lawrence and the other to the south shore. This pattern of convergent evolution suggests the presence of a selection pressure limited to eastern Quebec. Both alleles probably arose after the British conquest of Quebec in 1759 or at least were uncommon previously. To explain the high incidence of Tay-Sachs among Ashkenazi Jews, some authors have invoked heterozygote advantage, i.e., heterozygous individuals enjoy a higher rate of neuronal growth, and thus greater learning capacity, without the neurological deterioration of homozygous individuals. Such an advantage would have helped Ashkenazim perform the mental effort required for work in trade and crafts. A similar situation may have developed in eastern Quebec, where the relative scarcity of British and American merchants made it easier for French Canadians to enter occupations that required literacy, numeracy, and future time orientation.