APR 27, 2019 03:17 PM PDT

Stressing the Need to Diversify Genetic Data Sets

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

There is an accurate genetic tool for predicting a person’s risk of developing complex diseases like type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, or heart disease - called a polygenic score. It can help doctors identify who needs intervention even when common signs of the disorders are absent. However, if the scores have been developed using genomic data from people of Eurasian descent (most have), they will be the best at predicting risk for people of European ancestry, and not as good for other ancestries.

"From a clinical context, this means that current polygenic scores are significantly better in predicting the risk of common diseases for people of European ancestry than those of African ancestry," said Alicia Martin. Martin is the lead author of a new study on this topic in Nature Genetics.

"This further confirms that risk predictors are more precise if they are drawn from genetic data derived from a similar ancestry," said Martin, who is an affiliate of the Program in Medical and Population Genetics and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute. "It is crucial that researchers should recruit more minority populations in future genetic studies and also make data from such studies accessible and open. Failure to do this will lead to further inequities in our healthcare system."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Nature Genetics

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 11, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 11, 2019
Greenland's Summer Melt Helps Scientists Track Sea Level Rise
This summer, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced a significant melting event not seen since 2002, mainly due to the heatwave that swept through most of Eur...
DEC 11, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 11, 2019
Deep-Sea Critters Opportunistically Munch on a Sunken Whale Carcass
The ocean floor can be a lifeless and desolate place to be; so much so that marine animals have taken notice. It’s not often that you’ll find f...
DEC 11, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 11, 2019
The Elements that Could Go "Extinct"?
Extinction doesn't just happen in the world of biology — it might also have to chemical elements. Our world of modern technologies relies on a lo...
DEC 11, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 11, 2019
Your Annual Reminder: Don't Wash Your Turkey!
Washing any raw poultry before cooking makes sense, right? Wrong! Washing raw poultry—including a massive Thanksgiving turkey—will likely do mo...
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
How Close is SpaceX to Sending Humans to Space?
NASA is one of the world’s most capable space agencies, but a crippling budget prevents it from developing a new space vehicle of its own. Instead, N...
DEC 11, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 11, 2019
Greenland's Ice Sheet is Experiencing "Worst-Case Scenario" Loss
Greenland’s Ice Sheet—which covers 75% of the land’s mass—is melting at a rate aligned with “worst-case scenario” sea l...
Loading Comments...