Genomics research seeks to build a comprehensive map of human characteristics but it is neglecting most humans outside of European descent, a new article in the journal Nature warns.
Much of genetics research focuses on alleviating genetic disorders by seeking their roots and learning what makes some genetic defects unique to certain populations. But about 96% of genetics research has focused on Europeans, ignoring a 1985 mandate from the National Institutes of Health that federally funded genetics studies must try to incorporate diversity.
Here in the U.S. some of the people with the worst health outcomes are members of minority populations, Stanford genetecist and article co-author told the Los Angeles Times. They need to be included in these kind of studies. We don't think this is just an issue of political correctness -- rather it's one of addressing widening health disparities. If you don't include a broad representation of people in this next wave of studies, you'll only benefit a small set of individuals.
This is particularly true because many genetic variations, including those creating predispositions for diseases like diabetes and sickle-cell anemia, are group specific. The report's authors warned against focusing only on easily accessible subjects of European descent -- something made easier by the fact that most genome research occurs in Africa and the United States -- maintaining that those most in need must not be the last to receive the benefits of genetic research.