23andMe Explains Why Diversity Matters in Genetic Research

23andMe posted an informative blog that explains why diversity matters in research. Improving diversity and inclusion of underrepresented populations in research doesn’t just benefit those groups. It benefits everyone.

Africans and African Americans are among the most underrepresented populations in genetic health research, yet they face the most daunting health outcomes, 23andMe states.

It continues by pointing out that with the current state of research, the most in need are the least served by our ever-expanding genetic knowledge. Africans, African-Americans, as well as Latinos, still make up less than four percent of individuals included in genome-wide association studies.

Increasing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented research benefits everyone. According to 23andMe, one of the best examples of this are medications to lower cholesterol for those at risk for health disease. The insights that made these new drugs possible came because researchers found that some African Americans had variants in the PCSK9 gene that left them with very low cholesterol.

23andMe emphasizes that most genetic studies have been conducted on people of European ancestry, so there is a gap in our understanding of the genetic factors that influence disease among those of other ancestries. 23andMe sees an urgent need to scale research within non-European populations so all people can benefit from breakthroughs in genetic science.

Researchers have made significant findings around the genetics of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer, but many findings may not replicate in people who do not have European ancestry. In addition, genetic studies are used to help identify new drug targets or the efficacy of certain medications, which may differ depending on an individual’s ancestry.

Recently, 23andMe contributed data to research led by scientists at the University of Minnesota that focused on the genetics of alcohol and tobacco use. Those same researchers are now including African-Americans as part of that study.

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* NIH Launched All Of Us Research Program

* 23andMe Works Toward Improving Diversity in Genetic Research

* Genetic Studies Provide Possibilities in Cancer Research

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