Genetics Are Biased
November 4, 2016
DNA does not lie. DNA does not lie if conducted accurately and by an experienced geneticist. Right now it is popular for people to get their DNA tested to discover where their ancestors came from. Many testers are surprised when they receive their results, because they learn their ancestors came from unexpected places. Black Americans are eager to learn about the genetics, due to their slave ancestry and lack of familial records. For many Black Americans, DNA is the only way they can learn where their roots originated, but Africa is not entirely cataloged.
According to Science Daily’s article “Major Racial Bias Found In Leading Genomics Database,” if you have African ancestry and get a DNA test it will be difficult to pinpoint your results. The two largest genomics databases that geneticists refer to contain a measurable bias to European genes. From a logical standpoint, this is understandable as Africa has the largest genetic diversity and remains a developing continent without the best access to scientific advances. These provide challenges for geneticists as they try to solve the African genetic puzzle.
It also weighs heavily on black Americans, because they are missing a significant component in their genetic make-up they can reveal vital health information. Most black Americans today contain a percentage of European ancestry. While the European side of their DNA can be traced, their African heritage is more likely to yield clouded results. On a financial scale, it is more expensive to test black Americans genetics due to the lack of information and the results are still not going to be as accurate as a European genome.
This groundbreaking research by Dr. O’Connor and his team clearly underscores the need for greater diversity in today’s genomic databases,’ says UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also Vice President of Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor at UM SOM. ‘By applying the genetic ancestry data of all major racial backgrounds, we can perform more precise and cost-effective clinical diagnoses that benefit patients and physicians alike.
While Africa is a large continent, the Human Genome Project and other genetic organizations should apply for grants that would fund a trip to Africa. Geneticists and biologists would then canvas Africa, collect cheek swabs from willing populations, return with the DNA to sequence, and add to the database. Would it be expensive? Yes, but it would advance medical knowledge and reveal more information about human history. After all, we all originate from Mother Africa.