New Studies to Focus on Genetic Makeup of Ethnic Groups and Their Susceptibility to Health Risks

A new research initiative will attempt to illuminate the role that genetic variations play in health risks among ethnically diverse populations. (Image: cosmin4000/iStockphoto.com)

A new research initiative will attempt to illuminate the role that genetic variations play in health risks among ethnically diverse populations. (Image: cosmin4000/iStockphoto.com)

Researchers from 5 institutions are about to begin exploring whether subtle variations in the genetic makeup of ethnically diverse populations account for their differences in risks for conditions like high blood pressure and abnormal blood lipid levels and common diseases such as cancer and heart disease, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today.

The agency is funding the research through 4-year grants of more than $3.8 million in fiscal year 2013 and totaling (based on the availability of funds) almost $14 million over 4 years. The Population Architecture Using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) program of the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute will issue the grants.

The current group of grant recipients is the second group of researchers being funded through the PAGE program and the first to focus on ethnically diverse populations. “The goal of the PAGE program is to investigate ancestrally diverse populations to gain a better understanding of how genetic factors influence susceptibility to disease,” said PAGE program director Lucia Hindorff, PhD, in a release.

Much of the genetic research on humans, including that funded by PAGE in its first round of grants, has focused on white individuals, but whites and some nonwhites differ in their degree of risk for various health conditions. For example, black, Hispanic, and Native American individuals tend to have higher incidence of high blood pressure and obesity and are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke compared with whites.

The latest grantees—from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; University of Hawaii, Honolulu; and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City—will use large epidemiological studies and data sets that include whites, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Japanese Americans. “There are often population-related biological pathways that contribute to disease, so looking at many traits and diseases together gives a more complete picture of the role of genetic variation,” Hindorff said.



Categories: Cardiovascular Disease/Myocardial Infarction, Genetics, Hypertension, Obesity, Stroke