Growing genomic research into different ancestries yields more and better outcomes

Growing genomic research into  different ancestries yields more and better outcomes


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  • Source: The Lundquist Institute

  • Date: 01 Jun,2021

Currently published in Nature Genetics, their findings demonstrate that expanding research into different ancestries yields more and better results, in addition to ultimately benefitting global patient care. Up to now nearly 87 percent of genomic research of the type was conducted in Europeans.

The global study team examined data across a wide assortment of cohorts, encompassing over 280,000 people without diabetes. Researchers looked at glycemic traits, which can be utilized to diagnose diabetes and monitor glucose and insulin levels in the blood.

The researchers incorporated 30 percent of the overall cohort with people of East Asian, Asian, African-American, South Asian and sub-Saharan African source. By doing this, they discovered 24 more loci – or areas of the genome – linked to glycaemic traits than if they had conducted the research in Europeans alone.

We are very excited about contributing to this global study. It is highly significant that this global study is multi-ethnic and trans-ethnic. Such multi-ethnic studies are a major strength and focus of the cardiometabolic genomic epidemiology at The Lundquist. Our studies examine type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, and fatty liver, as well as studying their risk factors and related traits such as insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and obesity.”

Dr. Jerome I. Rotter, Investigator and Director of the Institute for Translational Genomics and Population Sciences at The Lundquist Institute and Professor of Pediatrics and Human Genetics at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Professor Inês Barroso, of the University of Exeter, who led the research, said:”Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly huge global health challenge – with the majority of the biggest increases occurring outside of Europe. While there are a lot of shared genetic factors between different countries and cultures, our research tells us that they do differ, in a sense that we need to understand. It’s essential to ensuring we can deliver a precision diabetes medicine approach that optimizes treatment and care for everyone.”

First author Dr. Ji Chen, of the University of Exeter, said:”We found 24 additional regions of the genome by adding cohorts which were more ethnically diverse than we would have done if we had limited our work to Europeans. Beyond the ethical arguments for ensuring research is reflective of global populations, our work demonstrates that this strategy generates better results.”

The group found that though some loci were not detected in all ancestries, they were still useful to capture information about the glycaemic attribute in that ancestry.

Co-author Cassandra Spracklen, Assistant Professor in the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said:”Our findings matter because we’re moving towards using genetic scores to weigh up an individual’s risk of diabetes. We are aware that scores developed exclusively in individuals of a single ancestry don’t work well in people of a different ancestry. This is important as increasingly healthcare is moving towards a more exact approach. Failing to account for genetic variation according to ancestry will impact our ability to correctly diagnose diabetes.”

Journal reference:

Chen, J., et al. (2021) The trans-ancestral genomic architecture of glycemic traits. Nature Genetics.


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