An ambitious new study of genes in Asian populations is filling in big gaps in our understanding of human genetics, shedding light on the history of human migration and ultimately aiming to improve our ability to treat disease.
Researchers from dozens of institutions around the world, including the University of Virginia School of Medicine, are seeking to address the under-representation of Asian populations in genetic research. Working as the GenomeAsia100K Consortium, they have examined the genomes of 1,739 people from 219 different population groups in 64 countries across Asia. The ultimate goal, as the group’s name suggests, is to sequence the genomes of 100,000 people across Asia. This will produce a treasure trove of genetic information to help medical researchers and doctors better understand and treat genetic diseases, identify those at risk and even determine how patients will respond to drugs.
“Under-representation of Asian populations in genetic studies has meant that medical relevance for more than half of the human population is reduced,” said researcher Aakrosh Ratan of UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences and the Center for Public Health Genomics. “The main goal of the project is to increase the number of people included in these genetic studies, primarily to boost our knowledge about medical genetics, but also to understand human migration and human origins.”