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Diverse Data Needed

Most genetic research has relied on populations of European ancestry, which means the results might not be applicable to other populations, Gizmodo writes. A 2016 study reported that 80 percent of genome-wide association study participants have been of European descent, it adds.

Gizmodo says that while people's genomes are highly similar, it's the little differences that account for traits and disease risk, and that those can be specific to ancestral backgrounds. Esteban Burchard at the University of California, San Francisco and his colleagues reported in March in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, that they sequenced 1,441 people to home in on a variant in NFKB1 that appears to explain why the asthma medication albuterol doesn't always work in African Americans and Latinos.

Gizmodo says that work like Burchard's shows that including diverse populations in research is important, particularly if personalized medicine is to benefit everyone. It notes that there are some efforts to increase diversity, but that much work still relies on European datasets. "[W]ithout correction, precision medicine is on course to be a breakthrough that serves to reinforce existing societal and economic inequalities," it adds.

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