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Biobank Enables Fine-Scale Population Analysis in Los Angeles

Within the UCLA ATLAS Community Health Initiative, researchers have identified more than 375 population clusters based on shared genetic ancestry and, among those clusters, found differing rates of disease diagnosis, genetic disorders, and healthcare utilization. The biobank includes genetic and electronic medical record data on 35,968 individuals, which researchers in Nature Medicine used to study fine-scale populations in Los Angeles, as, they note, someone's disease risk is shaped by the genetic and environmental factors affecting the populations to which they belong. Using identity-by-descent analyses, the team identified 376 patient clusters, including populations that have been overlooked in biomedical research. The researchers further correlated these clusters with different phenotypes and genetic variants, finding, for instance, that known pathogenic genetic variants are found at higher rates within Chinese, Iranian Jewish, Armenian, and African-American clusters and might be missed by carrier screening guidelines. "The combination of your genetic risk and your environmental risk are the two most important things in determining whether you get a disease. It's best for your doctor to have the best understanding of exactly what populations you might be coming from in order to assess things like disease risk or the need for genetic testing," first author Christa Caggiano, a PhD student at UCLA Health, says in a statement.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.