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Adding in Diversity

Through the Neuropsychiatric Genetics of African Populations-Psychosis (NeuroGAP-Psychosis) program, researchers from the US and Africa hope to begin to address the problem of genetic research relying disproportionately on people of European ancestry, as Anne Stevenson from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Lukoye Atwoli from the Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret, Kenya, write in a commentary at WBUR.

This reliance on people of European ancestry — Europeans make up 78 percent of the data in DNA databases, but only percent of the global population — makes such research less useful for people who belong to other populations and could lead to the development of treatments that are more likely to work in European populations, they note.

Through NeuroGAP-Psychosis, though, Stevenson and Atwoli plan to recruit 35,000 people in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda to donate DNA and provide health, mental health, and lifestyle information. This way, they write, they may be able to tease out clinically relevant genetic alterations that are more common among people of African ancestry and, possibly, new treatment targets.

"Our greatest wish? To see better treatments reach all people suffering from severe mental illness, whether they are in western Kenya or in Boston," they write at WBUR.