Race, Genetics and Health


[no dialogue]. [audience applause]>>Dr. Benn-Torres:
Alright, so I want to thank you all for attending today,
and for our organizers, Dr. Mullen and colleagues
for extending the very kind invitation for me to come
and share some of my research and celebrate with you
Darwin’s 203rd birthday. I would like to start today with
a quote from a May 2002 article published in the New York Times. “In practicing medicine,
I am not color blind. I always take note
of my patient’s race, so do many of my colleagues. We do it because certain
diseases and treatment responses cluster
by ethnicity. Recognizing these patterns
can help us to diagnose disease more efficiently and prescribe
medication more effectively. When it comes to
practicing medicine, stereotyping often works.” This quote taken from an article
entitled, “I am a Racially Profiling Doctor,” by Sally
Satel, attest to how race may be used in medical practice. Underlying this racial profiling
is the notion that beyond skin color, there is some
inherent biological differences between race. In these differences,
furthermore, are the cause of varying responses to
some drugs and treatments. Consequently to some physicians,
using race as a proxy to learn something about a patient,
seems a reasonable choice. However, the existence
of biological race, and by extension the use of
race in biomedicine is directly at odds with what most
contemporary anthropologists and human geneticists
profess about human variation. In today’s talk, I want to
share with you my thoughts, inspired by my own work in
molecular work in epidemiology, as well as by the research of
others in incorporating modern anthropological explanations
of human variation, into epidemiology. I suggest that the incorporation
of a bio anthropological, and bio cultural prospective
on human variation can significantly contribute
to the understanding and study of the
distribution of disease. This type of perspective
utilizes a critical approach to how human variation is
understood within the context of cultural constructions
of race and its relationship to health. As we’re all here to memorialize
the great contribution that Darwin made in articulating
what has become the foundation of modern biological science,
the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. I would also like to recall
Darwin’s position on the origin of meaning and human difference. In the midst of a scientific,
political, and economic environment that sought to
uphold notions of naturally occurring, distinct, unequal
human races, Darwin objected and rather professed
the unity of all humankind. Darwin’s position was in direct
opposition to polygenesis or the idea that each human
race had separate origins. Scientific racists use the
concept of polygenesis as evidence to justify
institutionalized child slavery, mass genocides and abuses
of subjugated peoples. Besides coming from a family
of staunch abolitionists, in his 1874 book, Dissent of
Man, Darwin wrote of a unifying factor, dissent from a single
ancestor set of human beings. Darwin was not denying the
existence of human difference, or race for that matter,
but instead was trying to make sense of these differences. Years later we struggle
with the meaning and value of human difference. We have all likely heard
the factoid that in considering DNA sequences, any two
humans are 99.9% alike. Now these estimates
actually vary a little bit, but the upshot is, that humans
in general are all pretty genetically similar. So 99.9% alike. What are we to
make of this .1%? Is this .1% responsible for
variable responses to medicine, is it responsible for
variable in phenotype? Is this .1%
responsible for race? The question in Darwin’s time,
just as it is in our time, is not if there
are human differences. Our eyes and science
clearly tell us that there are. But rather, the question
is, what is the best way to describe this variation? In the past, and
to some degree today, researchers have used the idea
of race, where race is defined as discreet, permanent and
genetically homogenous groups, to describe human variation. Social and natural scientists
have questioned this idea of race by asking,
for human beings, is race a biological reality? Is it a social reality
or some mix of biology and social factors? Furthermore, what are
appropriate ways for researchers to approach the question
of difference and disease susceptibility and
resistance across human groups. As I’ll explain today, possible
solutions to these questions may require a shift in the way
human variation is understood and studied. This shift would require a
move away from typological categorization towards
the use of another variable. This variable, which I’ll refer
to as biographic ancestry, more accurately estimates
underlying variation, as opposed to self
identified race. Secondly, we need a more
critical and nuanced use of race in biomedical settings
than currently exists today. So, the problem with race
or the historical context for this concept, it’s really
only within the latter half of the 20th century that the
majority of researchers in the biological sciences have begun
to accept that human races, meaning exclusive homogenous
and permanent groups, has no basis in biology, but
rather the social construction. The idea that there is a
biological basis to race has a long history
intertwined with political, economic and social factors. As such, the existence of
a biological concept of race has proved to be a very
difficult concept to abandon. Within the United States,
the scientific history of race is deeply entangle with
the history of anthropology, arguably since at
least the 18th century, anthropologists have been
concerned with understanding human difference. Moreover, anthropologists
have played critical roles in creating and giving value to
human biological differences. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach,
known as the father of physical anthropology, is credited with
creating the hierarchy that persists within contemporary
U.S. racial categorizations. Influenced by his predecessor,
Carolus Linnaeus, Blumenbach organized
humans into initially four, then in later publications
five groups, or using his own terminology, five varieties. In his 1795 publication
entitled, “On the Natural Variety of Mankind,” Blumenbach
categorized people into Caucasian groups, American,
Mongolian, Malay, and Ethiopian. According to Blumenbach’s
system, Caucasian represented the “ideal” type with all other
human types as degenerations of the particular variety. As stated in his 1795
publication, Caucasian was defined as the ideal race
simply on Blumenbach’s sense of aesthetics. “I have taken the name of this
variety from Mount Caucuses, both because its neighborhood
and especially its southern slope produces the most
beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian, and because
all physiological reasons converge to this, in this
region, if anywhere it seems we ought, with the greatest
probability, to place the autochthones of mankind. For in the first place that
stock displays the most beautiful form of the skull
from which from a mean and primeval type, the
others diverged by most ezeak predations
on both sides. White, we may fairly assume to
have been the primitive color of mankind.” After Blumenbach, certain
prominent scientists throughout the 19th century,
worked to uphold Blumenbach’s racial taxonomy. However, they questioned and
ultimately professed a change regarding human races. In hindsight, this change
appears to have been highly influenced by political and
economic climate of the day, namely colonialism,
and chattel slavery. This change had to do
with the origin of humankind. According to Blumenbach and
later Darwin for that matter, humankind had a single
origin or a monogenesis. According to Blumenbach, human
origin was among the people of the Caucuses. Scientists of the 19th century
such as Samuel Morton, Josiah Nott, George Lydia
and Louis Agassiz were part of the genetisist believing
in separate origins for each of the human races. With separate races, it was
not a far intellectual leap to order these races into a
hierarchy, which then could justify inhumane treatment
to “lower” races. Though there were descendants
to this and related ideas about human races throughout the
19th century, it was not until the mid-20th century in which
there was a strong momentum against the idea of a
biological basis to race. Prior to this period in the late
19th and early 20th centuries, ideas about race move from
classification and ranking to a genetic explanation
of a racial difference. As a consequence, the eugenics
movement in the United States proved to be a very influential
factor in shaping the notion of biological races. Despite the wide acceptance
of biological human races, some researchers during
this period, notably Franz Boas who is pictured here,
also known as the father of American anthropology,
he challenged 19th century ideals of classification
and ranking through the use of empirical data. Based on analysis of
anthropometric linguistic and other cultural traits, Boas
found that particular traits defining racial groups were
not concordant, meaning that variation in one trait was
not indicative of variation of another trait. Without concordant traits, it is
not possible to define discreet elusive groups. In addition, as alluded to
in his 1894 speech to the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, Boas also found through his
studies that there was more variation within racial groups
than between racial groups. Boas’s findings were later
replicated by other researchers such as Ashley Montagu,
Frank Livingstone, and Richard Lewington in the
later half of the 20th century. These conclusions have
since become primary tenants supporting the deconstruction of
the biological concept of race. In general, contemporary
anthropologists convey that upon examination of
human genetic variation, the taxonomic definition of
subspecies or biological race does not hold. Though there are differences
in gene frequencies between populations, at local levels,
such differences are not enough to warrant a distinction
between separate races. Well what about more
geographically distant groups, can they be
classified into races? Well genetic studies based on
global samples, show that for [unclear dialogue] genetic
distance is actually a function of geographic distance, whereas
geographic distance increases so does genetic distance. This distribution of
genetic variation where allele frequencies appear
similar between geographically close populations forms
what is known as a cline. Clines inherently contain
no internal boundaries and as applied to human
populations, this means as eloquently stated by Frank
Livingstone in his 1962 publication, there are no
races there are only Clines. The American Association of
Physical Anthropologist 1996 statement on race asserts
that “they” meaning old racial categories, “were often imbued
with non-biological attributes based on social
constructions of race.” The statement also confirms
that, “Humanity cannot be classified into discreet
geographic categories with absolute boundaries.” As noted, the evidence
supporting this statement comes from a century’s worth
of investigation into the description and the distribution
of human variation. However, despite the
extensive evidence of race as a biological fallacy,
there’s an emerging trend among European scientists in which
some researchers are revisiting the notion of biological race. This information comes
from a 2009 study published in the American Anthropologist
entitled, “Current Views of European Anthropologists on
Race: Influence of Education and Ideological Background.” An excerpt from this paper
reads, “A dependence was sought between the type of response,
in this case it was response to a survey that was about the
existence of biological race and several factors. Three of these factors,
country of academic education, discipline, and age were
found to be significant in differentiating the replies. Respondents educated in western
Europe, physical anthropologist, and middle aged persons,
reject race more frequently than respondants
educated in eastern Europe. People in other branches of
science and those from both younger and older generations.” The results from this paper
indicate that a biological race concept is still long from
extinction within the sciences. Biology and race
in the 21st century. As we enter the second decade
in the 21st century, the issue of race as a biologically
meaningful concept has not ceased to exist in evidence of
this particular concept is ripe among epidemiological studies. As an example, a study
released just last month, which, incidentally, made
many popular press headlines, looked at the relationship
between caffeine intake and estrogen level. The paper title, “Caffeinated
beverage intake and reproductive hormones among pre-menopausal
women,” concluded that for Asian women, approximately
two cups of coffee, this is equivalent of about
200 milligrams of caffeine, per day, resulted in increased
estrogen levels compared to other racial groups. Whereas, the same amount of
caffeine resulted in reduced amounts of estrogen
in white women. No statistically significant
result was observed in African-American women. The study goes on to note,
that the source of caffeine seemed to play an important role
in which caffeine from green tea or caffeinated soda resulted
in higher estrogen levels in all the included races. In the end, the authors included
that additional studies are warranted in order to
identify the relationship between caffeine, caffeinated
beverages and reproductive hormones, and if there is a
relationship on those by race. A quick search of the literature
will reveal a plethora of similar studies that
examine outcome based on race, yet provide no or scanty
evidence as to the nature of difference between
the recorded racial groups. As a generalization
in such studies, there is no direct statement
supporting the biological concept of race, instead, there
appears to be a presumption and a lack of
scientific holism. In absence of an explanation for
perceived racial differences, many scientists tend to use
cultural categories about race that are already loaded
with biological meaning. The debate of how best to
describe human variation becomes more complex with
the discovery of ancestry and formative markers or aims. Ancestry and formative markers,
are genetic markers that have allele frequencies that vary
drastically between populations. Aims are generally markers
that are under selection and thus the alleles appear
very different as a function of the environment
they emerged under. For example, a polymorphism in
the FY gene is used as an aim. This gene is responsible
for the production of the Duffy blood group. This gene controls a
glycoprotein receptor on blood cells. This receptor is normally used
for cytokines that are used during inflammation. In addition, the receptor can
also be used by plasmodium vivax, a parasite
that causes malaria. For some individuals,
they have a null allele, meaning that they do not
produce this receptor. This lack of receptor
confers a resistance to malarial parasites. Thus in places where malaria
is endemic, there will be a higher frequency of
individuals that carry the null allele, as opposed to places
where there is no malaria. As you can see on this map,
the null allele is most common among sub-Saharan Africans,
where up to 98 to 100% of the population carry
the null allele. And outside of Africa,
where malaria is not endemic, the null allele is
very rarely expressed. So markers that have a
high frequency in some areas of the world, and not as high
in others, are considered aims. So they have this
frequency differential. In this particular slide,
I’m actually showing you frequency differential
for FY null. So FY null is the
absence of the marker. As it’s depicted here,
this is actually the allele that is a receptor but it’s
still based around this idea of a null receptor. So what we have here are
basically some identification information that’s on
chromosome one, Q23.2. And the frequency of
this particular allele is very, very
low in Africans. So this is not the null
receptor, it does say null, but it’s a variant of the
null receptor that results in an actual receptor, and
you can see in non-African populations, in Europeans
and Native Americans, it’s at a high frequency. So this is a great aim, or
ancestry or formative marker that’s very rare in one group
and common in another group. So when we see it, we can make
a probablamistic statement that if you have this particular
allele, there’s a good chance that you come from a
non-African population. What’s here, are basically the
allele frequency differentials, we call these delta values, and
this is just a difference. So, by using these aims,
we’re able to get an actual estimate of someone’s ancestry. Using a combination of many
aims, some studies suggest a minimum of 35 different aims,
will allow for the estimation of biogeographic ancestry. More specifically, aims will be
genotyped in a study population, then the allele frequencies
will be statistically compared to a reference population. Shared alleles between a study
group and a reference group, suggest shared ancestry. Thus, genetic ancestry
or biogeographic ancestry, is an objective measurement that
corresponds to biogeographic region of origin where those
with shared genetic alleles have a shared origin. Biogeographic ancestry has
been utilized by anthropologist to establish links between
present and past populations, as well as molecular
epidemiologists in order to map diseased genes. Biogeographic ancestry,
is distinct from race in a number of ways. Biogeographic ancestry
is based on the genotyping of particular alleles, which,
due to frequency differentials, can aid in identifying ancestral
populations from broad geographic regions. Biogeographic ancestry does
not contain the same social and historical package as race,
thus its definition is less open to interpretation. Additionally, biogeographic
ancestry, assesses actual genotypes, rendering it more
useful than race as a biological indicator of variation. To illustrate this difference
between biogeographic ancestry and race, let’s consider the
results of my own genetic test. Based on 109 aims, my
ancestry is 89% African, the 95% confidence
level for that is 82-95%. It’s 4.7% Native American,
with a confidence intervals between 0 and 12%. And 6% European, with confidence
intervals between 1-13%. So discounting Native American
ancestry sets the confidence interval includes zero. My test results indicate that I
have some non-African ancestry. Despite this, I will self
identify as African-American, African-Caribbean, or the like,
on the census reports or any kind of demographic form. My own example illustrates the
point that ancestry and race are two different concepts. Once concept is based
on laboratory results, something that we can quantify,
and the other has been part of my socialization
within the United States. The distinction between
genetic ancestry and race is further illustrated when
considering larger samples. This table comes from a paper
I published with a colleague Dr. Rick Kittles, and is based
on genetic ancestry as estimates from people who self identify as
European American, those samples came from state
college in Pennsylvania. People who have self identified
as African American, samples were taken from Washington
D.C., and Hispanic American. These are groups of Puerto
Ricans living in New York. In the histogram, we can
see that 98% of those that self identify as European have
upwards of 90% non-African, presumably European, ancestry. So that’s this big red bar. European Americans, upwards
of 90% non-African ancestry. Conversely, we look to this
side, only 34% of those who self identify as
African American have over 90% African ancestry. The general trend shown here,
is that with an increase in African ancestry, we can see
that more people self identify as African American,
however, this leaves about 20% self identified African
Americans that have less than 60% African ancestry. So it refers, this latter stat
refers to the folks over here all self identify as
African American, but may have very little African ancestry. This trend suggests that for
some people, self identified race and ethnicity is not
indicative of biogeographic ancestry and thus self
identified race and ethnicity may not be indicative of
underlying variation that may play a role in
treatment or disease. There are limitations,
however, in ancestry testing. These caveats include
identifying the appropriate comparison populations, making
sure that you have a sufficient number of samples within your
comparison groups and using enough ancestry
informative markers. All of these features can
have a significant impact on the ancestry estimate. So what are some
other applications of genetic ancestry. In addition to learning more
about recent population history, biogeographic ancestry estimates
are applicable to discerning general population,
genetic characteristics, and have assisted in genome
wide association studies. In a recently published paper,
my collaborators and I examine the paternal lineages of 1300
African American men from two regions in the US,
from Washington D.C. and South Carolina, and
two regions in the Caribbean, Jamaica and St. Thomas. We found that many of
the lineages of these men, about 30-40% were attributed
to gene flow from European men. In addition, those men from
South Carolina who did not have European lineages had ancestry
that traced populations found within the grain coast while the
non-European lineage of the men from Washington D.C. and the
Caribbean, generally traced to populations in the
Bite of Biafra. These findings were in
alignment with what is known about the history of the
Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the subsequent arrival
of Africans in the Americas. Furthermore, our studies show
that the presence of extensive genetic heterogeneity,
and population substructure within African
American populations. Population substructure is
the presence of subpopulations within a larger group and it
can be a result of recent add mixture or non randomating
followed by genetic drift. Consequently within the United
States, population substructure is most commonly found among
recently add mix groups like African Americans and
Hispanic populations. The figure shown here depicts
the problem of population substructure in
association analyses. In the figure, we can see that
both populations, one and two, differ genetically. Population two has
a higher frequency of the little A allele, and this
results in each population being disproportionately sampled
in the case and control groups. In this example we would find a
significant difference between cases and controls at it’s locus
that’s a result of population substructure, rather than an
actual result due to the disease or difference due
to the disease. To account for population
stratification in an association study, biogeographic
ancestry should be considered in the analysis. This is done by first typing
ancestry informative markers across the genome, then
using these genotypes to make individual and locus specific
add mixtures for each sample. The add mixture estimates
are then used as covariates in the logistic
regression analysis. This is exactly what we did
in the research collaborated on about prostate cancer and
again polar rectal cancer. We employed biogeographic
ancestry into our analyses as we searched for candidate
loci involved with the diseases. Prostate cancer is one of the
most common cancers affecting men over the age of 65. Age adjusted incidents rates
for prostate cancer in all men between 2004 and 2008 were about
156 per 100,000 men per year. However, the incidents for
African American males specifically is much higher at
234 per 100,000 men per year, compared to 150 per 100,000
European American men and 129 per 100,000
Hispanic men per year. Why this disease affects African
American men is unknown. Current research efforts are
under way to understand both the disease and the risk factors
involved in disease onset. In this prostate cancer
study, we examine 24 markers within a specific region
of chromosome 8, and 1,057 African American men. The region of chromosome
8 had previously been shown to have an association
with prostate cancer. In addition to genotyping the
24 markers, genetic ancestry was also estimated for each
participant based on 80 aims. Besides illuminating a bit
about the population history of the sample, the biogeographic
ancestry estimates were used to correct for both global and
local population substructure within our
association analysis. The same methodology
was applied to the colal rectal cancer study. Since the recognition that
population substructure is a potential co-founder, an
increasing number of genome wide studies are incorporating the
use of genetic ancestry into their analyses. In addition to the use of aims
to estimate biogeographic ancestry in association studies,
genetic ancestry tests have also been commercialized by
a number of direct to consumer testing companies. For a fee, these companies
will send the client a [unclear dialogue] swab
to use for DNA collection and return to the company. The company will then test
the sample for genetic ancestry and produce a report
that list, by percentage, the biogeographic
origins of the client. This sort of test generally
appeals to people interested in using genetics to probe
their own genealogy. For the most part, the industry
is unregulated and as such, there is no standard for
what and how much information must be related to the client,
nor is there a standard for how the information
should be interpreted. This lack of regulation,
in addition to lack of interdisciplinary communication
has led to the confusion of genetic ancestry for a
genetic definition of race. In a recent edited book
entitled, “Race and the Genetic Revolution,” Robert Polluck, a
contributor, accuses the NIH of promoting a research initiative
to “examine human DNA for evidence of race.” He goes on to note, “this NIH
project goes on to find versions of genes that are in everybody
of one race or ancestry,” he says, “this is a euphemism
for race in this context which are never found in the genome
of people not in that race.” Though Polluck never specifies
the initiative by name, his accusation indicates the
misinformation surrounding the definition, purpose, and
interpretation of biogeographic ancestry and research. The fact that this chapter
is in a book published by a well-established press,
further indicates the potential for the dissemination
of this erroneous belief. Despite the controversy
and misinformation surround biogeographic ancestry,
it is an objective indicator of biogeographic origins and
as such can assess underlying variation that can be
informative about disease disparity and resistance. Consequently, it is well suited
to address the question of how best to describe human
variation as opposed to race. As a field that critically
thinks about the nature of similarities and differences
in human populations, anthropologists and related
academic kin must be at the forefront of ancestry at the
race issue and use in research. So genes, race, and health. During the first decade of the
new millennium, the use of race in biomedical setting,
was hotly debated by a number of researchers representing
a variety of fields such as anthropology, medicine,
and epidemiology. Though many of the same themes
scene with previous generations were not as evident. A refined use and application of
more comprehensive genetic data complicated the matter. Proponents of the genetication
of race could site [unclear dialogue] or a
2005 article by Teng et al. In the Teng et al study,
Teng and colleagues observed genotypic data based on
326 markers sampled from US and Taiwanese
participants, clustered into four broad groups. In addition, for the
overwhelming majority, self-identified race
ethnicity of the participants corresponded with one of
the four genotypic clusters. And this was with a
.14 discrepancy rate. For Teng and colleagues,
race ethnicity proved to be a valuable variable that
was indicative of underlying genetic variation. Thus, ancient geographic
ancestry which is highly correlated with self identified
race ethnicity, is a major determinant of genetic structure
in the U.S. population. So in this picture, from
Teng et al study, you see that these are the four groups,
so here, this group represents the African Americans. This group represents
Asian Americans or the Taiwanese population. And this group
represents Caucasians. And you’ll notice this
known population here that represents
Hispanic groups. A critique of this
research cited problems with the methodology. Gravely in his 2009 paper
for example, noted that with a US population, Teng et al
used a population from which its members originate from
geographically distant regions. Thus, this critique summons
one of the counter arguments to biological race,
and that’s of clines. Gravely essentially argued
that what Teng et al actually measured was different segments
of a continuum and thereby inserted boundaries in a
line where there are none. In addition another critique
noted a problem of using one group here represented as
K, and calling that a cluster. The camp of researchers
that opposed the use of race and biomedicine based
their arguments on evidence that indicates the
biological fallacy of race. Consequently, since race is
culturally imposed, it cannot be a useful variable to explain
biologically based differences to drug response or
disease susceptibility. Dr. Richard Cooper a
cardiovascular epidemiologist at Loyola University at
Stricht School of Medicine, and a long time opponent of race
based medical decision making, states the position clearly. I’m sorry, I
missed my slide. What I’m trying to get your
attention to is this blue pit. Although the significance
of race may be clear-cut in many practical situations, an
adequate theoretical construct based on biological
principles does not exist. Anthropologist have in large
measure, banned the biological concept of race and its
persistent widespread use in epidemiology is a
scientific anti-racism. This extract taken from an
article published in the American Heart Journal in 1984. Cooper’s stance is in staunch
opposition to other researchers and professionals like that of
Dr. Sally Satel whom I quoted at the beginning
of this seminar. According to this side of the
debate, the use of conventional race categories provide some
information medically relevant information about
a study participant. Another outspoken proponent of
the use of race in biomedicine is epidemiologist Esteban
Burchard, so the author of the paper shown now. He thinks of race as a variable
that carries the potential to extract information about
environment genetic risk factors, as well as information
about the interaction between risk factors. He notes that despite the danger
of collecting information that may serve to essentialize or
oversimplify human variation, knowing the race and ethnicity
of participants is outweighed by the information
that can be gained. A third position on this
debate, which is, now just beginning to gain attention,
conceives of race, not as biological, but instead
as a biocultural phenomenon. Accordingly, race is
not biology, but instead influences biology. Research by Clarence Gravlee
on hypertension and skin color among a sample of Puerto Ricans
researched by James Collins and Richard David on pre-term
birth and social stress, are both examples of studies
that increasingly indicate that, though, race is not biology,
there are mechanisms in which race becomes biology. This mechanism
involves that embodiment of psychosocial stress. In this case, the persistently
negative experiences of racism to the point where there
is biological manifestation of this stress. Another epidemiologist Carl
Phillips Jones, has suggested a related model, in which
three forms of racism, institutionized, personally
mediated, internalized racism, all work to influence health. According to Jones’ model,
additional access to resources and opportunities, she calls
that institutionalized racism, prejudice, and discrimination,
personally mediated racism, and low self-worth, internalized
racism, all work together to essentially spoil the
environment so that the affected individuals cannot thrive. While it may be of no surprise
that stress can cause illness, what is novel about this sort
of research, is that there is an attempt to incorporate a
biocultural perspective on the distribution of disease. With anthropology,
there is a research position of applying a holistic
approach to the study question. I suggest, that with
the coordination of social scientists, a similar approach
can be widely applied in epidemiology studies. Using this or similar models
to what I’ve described in combination with genetic
characteristics such as biogeographic history, may work
better to address the questions about diseases disparity
across populations. With regard to the place
of race within epidemiology, race should not be uncritically
applied with biomedical studies. Race is not a biological
explanation for difference among human groups. However, there is increasing
evidence that the stress and other negative effects of racism
are influential on health. With only a focus on disease
differences on races, as though there were some underlying
biological dissimilarities characterizing race, researchers
may well miss out on the actual biological causes
of disease disparity. Interdisciplinary communication
between social and natural scientists will be one solution
that may help to shift the way that human variation is
considered, in light of disease. Race, as a biological paradigm,
is not applicable to humans due to incongruence with observed
patterns of human variation. Historical and social
factors, further complicate its application. Many researchers interested
in understanding how genetic variation influences
disease, are turning to biogeographic ancestry. Biogeographic ancestry is devoid
of the social subtext that hinders race and is a better way
to assess genetic variation. Thus, biogeographic ancestry may
be a better way to describe human biological difference
and explore genetic causes of disease. Where human genetic diversity
relates to medicine and health, stereotyping will
not always work. Good communication in
several dimensions, including educational settings, research
settings, and popular culture, will help to ensure that our
understanding of human variation will move past the problems of
previous generations, and arrive at solutions that maybe
benefit to all people. And with that, I’m done. A special thanks to you all
for listening to collaborators and to the two people who have
provided so much support for me. Thank you. [audience applause].>>female speaker: We have
a few minutes for questions. So questions for
Dr. Benn-Torres.>>male speaker:
Would you say that using genetic markers would be a
long term replacement for using race to do studies, or
work in conjunction with?>>Dr. Benn-Torres: I would
say work in conjunction with. Because we live in the
United States we’re a very race conscious society, and we
have a history-involving race which has resulted in
differential access to resources differential access to
different environments. In fact if you look on, I
think it’s one of the most recent census maps, you’ll see
that in the US we are still quite segregated in terms of
where we live, geographically. Because of that, you may
actually see difference in access to resources,
different environments, different access to foods,
which may play a role in influencing health. So the variable of race
from more of a social access to resources sort of angle,
is still going to be useful in delineating differences
between disease susceptibility. However, the incorporation
of genetic ancestry, or other actual genetic markers that
indicate biological differences will also compliment what we
know on top of social factors. So it’s this way of
incorporating this idea that humans live in a
bio cultural matrix. Yes our biology informs
our well being, but so does environment, your schooling,
your access to medical care and to good food. So, ignoring one, in place of
the other is not going to be a good solution as well.>>female speaker:
Other questions?>>Dr. Benn-Torres:
Yes please.>>female speaker:
You made comments about the commercialization of genetic
testing and things like that. So my question is, what
would be a better route if you’re interested in
getting that testing done?>>Dr. Benn-Torres:
I think there’s nothing wrong with doing the testing,
it’s quite interesting. A lot of people have actually
debated its utility, but I’m of the mindset that if you know
very little about your family, your ancestry, for me
personally, I come from lineages that were systematically denied
information about who they were, where they came from. Genetic ancestry provides a tool
to look back into the past. When the science of it
is explained to you in the grand scheme of things, you
are actually not learning that much about your past. So you can learn about your
maternal lineage, or your paternal lineage, that’s
one person or two people, out of your entire family tree. So in the grand scheme of things
it’s not that much, however, if you knew nothing before,
where you came from, how you got there,
it’s a lot. So I’m not discounting direct
to consumer genetic ancestry testing, it’s quite useful,
but I would encourage you to do your homework, figure out
exactly what you’re learning, figure out the science of
it, how a result should be interpreted, and then from
there you can make a decision as to its value for you.>>male speaker:
Do you have any suggestions on how to go about
doing that research?>>Dr. Benn-Torres:
The short answer is that it’s going to
depend on who you are. If your family has been
established in a place and there’s actual records,
I would go both routes. The records can
actually compliment the genetic information. If the records don’t exist
then you need to sort of research as to what company is
going to have the appropriate reference populations
based on what you know of your family history. So there’s a number of sort
of competing ones out there. Some of these companies try
to market towards a specific ethnic group or people
that have a shared history, so you might go that route. But ultimately I would
suggest, do your homework, find out what these genetic
ancestry tests are going to tell you.>>female speaker:
Alright well thank you very much Dr. Benn-Torres. [audience applause]. [no dialogue]

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