New African-American Gene Information May Explain Disparities

A new scientific product is the first to maximize genomic coverage of both common and rare gene types in populations of African ancestry.

Posted: 10/13/2011 12:25 PM EDT
New African-American Gene Information May Explain Disparities

The latest statistics say that nearly 40 percent of all African-Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetime — but that and other dismal Black health statistics may soon be a thing of the past with the help of a new scientific product that will provide researchers with new, extensive gene information on Black communities that may help shine light on some of medicine’s most puzzling health disparities.

Outside of variable such as diet and exercise, doctors and scientists have long been stumped by some of the startling differences between Black communities and others when it comes to the prevalence of certain health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.  Although genetic differences are often suspected for these differences, new developments in gene information like the Axiom Pan-African Array may finally demystify this question.


The Axiom Pan-African Array is the first commercial product to maximize genomic coverage of both common and rare gene types in populations of African ancestry, including West African, East African and African-American. Makers of the product say that until now, studies of African-American and African populations have been underrepresented in studies because commercially available gene samples of these populations were not optimized for the complex patterns of African genomes.

"The poor genomic coverage of currently available commercial arrays in African populations has significantly impacted our ability to understand the genetic factors that underlie the increased risk of African-Americans for diseases such as cancer (prostate, breast and colon) and cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders," said Dr. Rick Kittles, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "We are currently using the Axiom Pan-African Array for prostate cancer, sickle-cell disease and drug response research. With greater access to rare variants and increased coverage, I hope to gain better insights into new disease mechanisms."

(Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble)