Viewpoint: Genetic research can’t fulfill its potential without greater diversity in study populations

3-9-2019 genetics diversity
Image credit: Kaiser Health News

Genetic differences exist between people of different ancestries. That means genetic studies that focus on just a handful of populations give an incomplete picture. A biological insight that emerges from a study of people of European descent may not apply to someone of East Asian descent, and vice versa.

In order for everyone to benefit from sequencing the human genome, genetic studies must be conducted in people of all ethnicities — as well as all genders, ages, incomes, and sexual orientations.

People of European descent account for less than one-quarter of the world’s population. Yet a recent study showed they make up more than three-quarters of the participants in genome-wide association studies, a common type of genetic study.

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Joannella Morales and colleagues showed that even though only 1.3 percent of individuals in a comprehensive set of genetic studies were Hispanic or Latin American, 4.3 percent of the total genetic discoveries were made in those groups. In contrast, the 78 percent of research participants of European descent contributed 54 percent of the genetic discoveries.

It will take many cycles of hope and frustration to get there, but nothing that is worth doing is easy, and this is well worth doing.

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Read full, original post: Lack of diversity hinders genetic studies. We can change that

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