Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is Race Genetic addendum

In my Is Race Genetic? series, I didn't really touch on the implications of using race as a way of telling if someone is more likely to be susceptible to certain diseases, or if they are going to respond adversely/favourably to a particular medical treatment. In case you're curious, here's a link to a paper called "Genetic variation, classification and 'race'" by Jorde and Wooding published in 2004*.

To quote the abstract:

New genetic data has enabled scientists to re-examine the relationship between human genetic variation and 'race'. We review the results of genetic analyses that show that human genetic variation is geographically structured, in accord with historical patterns of gene flow and genetic drift. Analysis of many loci now yields reasonably accurate estimates of genetic similarity among individuals, rather than populations. Clustering of individuals is correlated with geographic origin or ancestry. These clusters are also correlated with some traditional concepts of race, but the correlations are imperfect because genetic variation tends to be distributed in a continuous, overlapping fashion among populations. Therefore, ancestry, or even race, may in some cases prove useful in the biomedical setting, but direct assessment of disease-related genetic variation will ultimately yield more accurate and beneficial information.

When they get into examples, the jargon gets a little heavy but the main points they're trying to make are pretty good. If you've read my series, you'll probably want to scroll down to the section called "Genetic variation, race and medicine."

*Those of you who pay attention to detail will notice that this was published before Witherspoon et al.'s paper, which I talked about in the series. That's okay - I think their points still stand.

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