Wednesday, October 27, 2021

By not including everyone, genome science has blind spots

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It has been about 20 years since scientists unveiled a draft of the human genome. It is all the DNA found in a human cell. Think of it as a book of genetic instruction for the body. Creating this draft was like a medical moon stroke. He promised that doctors might soon be able to examine a person’s DNA and prescribe the right medication for their disease. They could even prevent certain diseases.

This promise is known as precision medicine. But it has not yet been realized in a generalized way.

Researchers are getting clues about certain DNA variants linked to certain conditions. Some people have it. Others might not be. And scientists have figured out how certain variants affect the way drugs work in the body. But many of these advances have only helped one group: people whose ancestors came from Europe. In other words, white people.

What is commonly referred to as the human genome does not represent everyone, says Constance Hilliard. “What we have is essentially a European genome.” Hilliard is an evolutionary historian. She works at the University of North Texas at Denton. Unless all of your ancestors are from Europe, she says, that human genome …

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