GENOMICS & RACIAL-ETHNIC DIVERSITY


GENOMICS & RACIAL-ETHNIC DIVERSITY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Genetic research & development (R&D) has gone a very long way since the time of theorizations of the same in the 19th century. Genetics applied to human health had benefited immensely from genomics, albeit the samples utilized for the studies were largely of European (White) descent.

Conclusions generated from largely fixed samples raise questions regarding the overall generalizability of the findings. This is where the wisdom of Weber and hermeneutics comes in: treat human subjects as unique, special cases of studies, science isn’t about generalizations but about idiographic peculiarities of communities or ethnicities studied.

Today, the issue of racial and ethnic differences in genomics is a reverberating one. Experts are beginning to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding the matter, and are breaking down conventional positivist practices in R & D towards more idiographic-bent research. Hopefully genomics will catch up with the other sciences, notably cultural sciences, in showing the ramifications of ethnic-racial factors behind certain ailments.

Below is a relevant report from scientific circles about genomics.

[Philippines, 06 September 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/genomics-must-reflect-racial-and-ethnic-diversity-1.html
Genomics must reflect racial and ethnic diversity
20 July 2011 | EN | ES
People with Native South American ancestry have a protein variant associated with type 2 diabetes — but genomics research overlooks ethnic groups
Geneticists must develop methods, resources and incentives for including a broader range of populations in medical genomics research to ensure that those most in need are not the last to benefit, say Carlos D. Bustamante, Esteban González Burchard and Francisco M. De La Vega.

Genome-wide association studies have dramatically improved our understanding of chronic diseases, yet 96 per cent of the people studied are of European descent. This trend is set to continue in future research, say the authors.

Early research suggests that results based on one population may not always apply to another — versions of a gene associated with a disease may occur with different frequency in different ethnic groups, for example, or may be missing entirely. So genome studies run the risk of excluding racial and ethnic minorities from the benefits that may result from such research, argue the authors.

But diversifying the study populations would reduce the likelihood of finding a statistical link between a genetic factor and a disease — making researchers reluctant to do it.

Empowering scientists in the developing world to conduct home-grown genomics research is one way of making sure that diverse populations are included, say the authors. Collaboration between countries will be key to funding and technology transfer, which will help boost genomics studies globally. This should involve providing local expertise, resources and insight into the population’s history.

New statistical methods will also help to tease apart the contribution of genetic, socio-cultural and environmental factors to chronic and infectious diseases. Peer reviewers and granting bodies also need “to stress the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in medical genetic studies”.
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