Why cancer research should focus more on African genomes


In the past, African patients have had poor access to medical advances, even as scientists use them as research subjects. [Researcher Charles] Rotimi worried that genetics might again exploit the 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, ignoring their need for treatments for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and cancer.

[S]cientists came out with a frenzy of discoveries about our DNA that could possibly lead to new treatments for diabetes, cancer, psychiatric illnesses and other serious diseases. But they were drawing from a small slice of the world: Nearly all of the published work was based on populations with European ancestry. By 2009, fewer than 1 percent of the several hundred genome investigations included Africans.

[C]ompared with Europeans and Americans, Africans have much better genomes for research, again because of their ancestral age. Over time, as a genetic material is handed down from one generation to the next, SNPs tend to gather in clusters, making them easier for researchers to find. As a consequence, they are more apparent in older genomes.

Related article:  Viewpoint: How agroecology can improve life for Africa's smallholder farmers

[T]he project, which Rotimi eventually named Human Heredity and Health in Africa, or H3Africa, would do far more than study African genomes: It would be a massive research effort led by African scientists, located in African institutions and directly benefiting the African population. H3Africa would create parity between researchers there and in Europe and North America.

Read full, original post: Cancer Scientists Have Ignored African DNA in the Search for Cures

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