The Illusion of Inclusion — The “All of Us” Research Program and Indigenous Peoples’ DNA

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2020-09-13 02:16Z by Steven

The Illusion of Inclusion — The “All of Us” Research Program and Indigenous Peoples’ DNA

The New England Journal of Medicine
Issue 383 (2020-07-30)
pages 411-413
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1915987

Keolu Fox, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego

Raw data, including digital sequence information derived from human genomes, have in recent years emerged as a top global commodity. This shift is so new that experts are still evaluating what such information is worth in a global market. In 2018, the direct-to-consumer genetic-testing company 23andMe sold access to its database containing digital sequence information from approximately 5 million people to GlaxoSmithKline for $300 million. Earlier this year, 23andMe partnered with Almirall, a Spanish drug company that is using the information to develop a new antiinflammatory drug for autoimmune disorders. This move marks the first time that 23andMe has signed a deal to license a drug for development.

Eighty-eight percent of people included in large-scale studies of human genetic variation are of European ancestry, as are the majority of participants in clinical trials.1 Corporations such as Geisinger Health System, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe have already mined genomic databases for the strongest genotype–phenotype associations. For the field to advance, a new approach is needed. There are many potential ways to improve existing databases, including “deep phenotyping,” which involves collecting precise measurements from blood panels, questionnaires, cognitive surveys, and other tests administered to research participants. But this approach is costly and physiologically and mentally burdensome for participants. Another approach is to expand existing biobanks by adding genetic information from populations whose genomes have not yet been sequenced — information that may offer opportunities for discovering globally rare but locally common population-specific variants, which could be useful for identifying new potential drug targets.

Many Indigenous populations have been geographically isolated for tens of thousands of years. Over time, these populations have developed adaptations to their environments that have left specific variant signatures in their genomes. As a result, the genomes of Indigenous peoples are a treasure trove of unexplored variation. Some of this variation will inevitably be identified by programs like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “All of Us” research program. NIH leaders have committed to the idea that at least 50% of this program’s participants should be members of underrepresented minority populations, including U.S. Indigenous communities (Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians), a decision that explicitly connects diversity with the program’s goal of promoting equal enjoyment of the future benefits of precision medicine.

But there are reasons to believe that this promise may be an illusion. Previous government-funded, large-scale human genome sequencing efforts, such as the Human Genome Diversity Project, the International HapMap Project, and the 1000 Genomes Project, provide examples of the ways in which open-source data have been commodified in the past. These initiatives, which promised unrestricted, open access to data on population-specific biomarkers, ultimately enabled the generation of nearly a billion dollars’ worth of profits by pharmaceutical and ancestry-testing companies. If the All of Us program uses the same unrestricted data-access and sharing protocols, there will be no built-in mechanisms to protect against the commodification of Indigenous peoples’ DNA…

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Large DNA Study Traces Violent History of American Slavery

Posted in Africa, Articles, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2020-07-24 03:03Z by Steven

Large DNA Study Traces Violent History of American Slavery

The New York Times
2020-07-23

Christine Kenneally


An 1823 cross-section diagram of a ship used to carry enslaved people. incamerastock/Alamy

Scientists from the consumer genetics company 23andMe have published the largest DNA study to date of people with African ancestry in the Americas.

More than one and a half centuries after the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended, a new study shows how the brutal treatment of enslaved people has shaped the DNA of their descendants.

The report, which included more than 50,000 people, 30,000 of them with African ancestry, agrees with the historical record about where people were taken from in Africa, and where they were enslaved in the Americas. But it also found some surprises.

For example, the DNA of participants from the United States showed a significant amount of Nigerian ancestry — an unexpected finding, as the historical record does not show evidence of enslaved people taken directly to the United States from Nigeria.

At first, historians working with the researchers “couldn’t believe the amount of Nigerian ancestry in the U.S.,” said Steven Micheletti, a population geneticist at 23andMe who led the study…

…The 23andMe project found this general pattern, but also uncovered a startling difference in the experience of men and women between regions in the Americas.

The scientists calculated that enslaved women in the United States contributed 1.5 times more to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent than enslaved men. In the Latin Caribbean, they contributed 13 times more. In Northern South America, they contributed 17 times more.

What’s more, in the United States, European men contributed three times more to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent than European women did. In the British Caribbean, they contributed 25 times more…

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Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas

Posted in Africa, Articles, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2020-07-24 02:41Z by Steven

Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas

The American Journal of Human Genetics
Published: 2020-07-23
37 pages
DOI:10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.06.012

Steven J. Micheletti
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Kasia Bryc
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Samantha G. Ancona Esselmann
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

William A. Freyman
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Meghan E. Moreno
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

G. David Poznik
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Anjali J. Shastri
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

23andMe Research Team
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Sandra Beleza
University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom

Joanna L. Mountain
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California


GettyImages

According to historical records of transatlantic slavery, traders forcibly deported an estimated 12.5 million people from ports along the Atlantic coastline of Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries, with global impacts reaching to the present day, more than a century and a half after slavery’s abolition. Such records have fueled a broad understanding of the forced migration from Africa to the Americas yet remain underexplored in concert with genetic data. Here, we analyzed genotype array data from 50,281 research participants, which—combined with historical shipping documents—illustrate that the current genetic landscape of the Americas is largely concordant with expectations derived from documentation of slave voyages. For instance, genetic connections between people in slave trading regions of Africa and disembarkation regions of the Americas generally mirror the proportion of individuals forcibly moved between those regions. While some discordances can be explained by additional records of deportations within the Americas, other discordances yield insights into variable survival rates and timing of arrival of enslaved people from specific regions of Africa. Furthermore, the greater contribution of African women to the gene pool compared to African men varies across the Americas, consistent with literature documenting regional differences in slavery practices. This investigation of the transatlantic slave trade, which is broad in scope in terms of both datasets and analyses, establishes genetic links between individuals in the Americas and populations across Atlantic Africa, yielding a more comprehensive understanding of the African roots of peoples of the Americas.


Figure 1 Location of Individuals and Cohorts
Arrows highlight the general direction of the triangular trade routes between continents during the transatlantic slave trade. Pie charts indicate the documented number of enslaved people embarking out of regions of Africa (∼12.5 million total) and disembarking in regions of the Americas (∼10.5 million total) between 1515 and 1865. Representatives of regions of the Americas and Europe indicated that they each have four grandparents born within the same country or US state. Representatives of Atlantic Africa either indicated four grandparents born within or historical ties to a country. Points indicate the ∼16,000 unique grandparental geo-coordinates provided by participants. ∗Cape Verde is an Atlantic African island country that, in the 15th century, was colonized by the Portuguese and inhabited primarily by enslaved people from Senegambia.

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Shilling for U.S. Empire: The Legacies of Scientific Racism in Puerto Rico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2020-06-26 01:10Z by Steven

Shilling for U.S. Empire: The Legacies of Scientific Racism in Puerto Rico

The Abusable Past
Radical History Review
2020-06-22

R. Sánchez-Rivera
Department of Sociology
University of Cambridge


Pablo Delano, A Group of newly made Americans at Ponce, Porto Rico, (detail from the conceptual art installation The Museum of the Old Colony, 2016-ongoing). Source: Stereocard published by M. H. Zahner, Niagara Falls, New York, 1898. Photographer not identified.

Recently, a published, peer-reviewed article caused a great deal of controversy when it circulated among many academic Facebook pages such as Latinx Scholars, Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA), and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA)-Puerto Rico Section. This article, “Economic Development in Puerto Rico after US Annexation: Anthropometric Evidence,” written by Brian Marein, a PhD student in economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, brings together data to show that the average height of men in Puerto Rico increased by 4.2cm after the U.S. “annexation” (a euphemism for colonization). The author uses anthropometrics to argue that U.S. colonialism was actually beneficial to Puerto Ricans “in contrast to the prevailing view in the literature.” His main conclusion is that because U.S. officials brought in resources, food, and education, the life of Puerto Ricans improved (inferred by the increased height of men) as a result of colonization.

Anthropometrics refers to the measuring of people’s bodies and skeletons to correlate their difference to “racial” and psychological traits that privileged Eurocentric ideas of beauty, intelligence, ableness, morality, among others. This stems from a long history of “race science” that surged from the polygenetic assumption that (1) “race” was a biological type and (2) “races” had distinct origins. Two major theories of human origins and heredity dominated during the nineteenth century: monogenism and polygenism. Thinkers who advocated for monogenism argued that all humans came from the same origin but were in different developmental stages (usually with Whites at the top and Black people at the bottom). However, during the second half of the nineteenth century polygenism, or the notion that the “races” had separate origins and should be considered as distinct and immutable species, became more widely accepted…

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How Should I Think About Race When Considering a Sperm Donor?

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2020-06-23 17:55Z by Steven

How Should I Think About Race When Considering a Sperm Donor?

The Ethicist
The New York Times Magazine
2020-06-16

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Law
New York University


Illustration by Tomi Um

I am an American woman, of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and I strive to live my life as an active agent against racism and white supremacy. I am beginning to consider having children and am open to bearing a child as a single mother. It is possible to sort through sperm donors by race, eye color, education level and so on. If I choose a donor of color, am I condemning my child to be born into a system designed not to serve them? Or can I use my white privilege to help them fight that system? Would my future child of color feel separated from their heritage with me as their mother? If I choose a white donor, am I succumbing to racist ideas of what traits are “desirable,” or taking the “easy road” in knowing my child will look more like me? What do you think? Name Withheld

Women have been making choices about their children’s possible appearance and identity from the beginning of human history. Long before genetics, people knew that parental characteristics show up in their offspring. With modern technologies, the prospects for trying to fix your child’s heritable characteristics are expanding, raising plenty of ethical issues. Race, however, is not a biological fact but a social fact — a social fact that, for example, Americans who are known to have African ancestry are regarded as African-American. What’s more, having an African-American donor doesn’t tell you what your child’s skin or hair will look like. You can be socially black without looking black, like Walter White, the longtime head of the N.A.A.C.P.

I’m spelling all this out because your question about having a child with a sperm donor of color presupposes that it will produce a child who won’t look “white,” and that’s not necessarily the case. Suppose you have a white-looking son with an African-American sperm donor. Then you and your child will have a choice to make about whether he or she should identify as African-American. Some people think that failing to do so — “passing for white” — is somehow dishonest. Yet to hold that you must identify as black in those circumstances would be to accede to a longstanding American notion (“the one-drop rule”) that one black ancestor makes you black. You could reasonably reject that notion, which is rooted in the history of slavery and the nonsensical racial theories that grew up with it…

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HALF MEASURES: California’s Journey Toward Counting Multiracial People By 2022

Posted in Campus Life, Census/Demographics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Latino Studies, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Reports, Social Science, Social Work, United States on 2020-04-29 00:02Z by Steven

HALF MEASURES: California’s Journey Toward Counting Multiracial People By 2022

Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC)
2020
30 pages

Thomas Lopez, Editor
Sarah Gowing, Lead Researcher

Reviewers:

G. Reginal Daniel, Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Kelly F. Jackson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work
Arizona State University

Racial and ethnic data is collected by the government to enable the enforcement of civil rights laws, ensure equitable distribution of resources, and measure inequality. In 2016, the State of California released new policy standards for the collection and public reporting of racial/ethnic demographic data. All State agencies, boards, and commissions that collect this data must comply by January 1, 2022, allowing respondents to select multiple racial/ethnic categories. They must also disseminate this information in such a way as to not obscure mixed-race individuals. Potentially the most significant change to the standards would be the counting of people with mixed Latina/o and non-Latina/o identity. California will be the first state in the nation to do this.

This study’s aim is to determine whether these agencies are in compliance or whether there are still changes to be made. After reviewing organizations and aims from four sectors (education, business, health, and criminal justice), it was found that only one system is in compliance with the data collection, and none have followed the standards for race/ethnic data presentation. The counting of mixed Latina/o identified people is the most conspicuous gap in both the data collection and reporting methods. With less than two years to make the required changes, agencies must ensure that they are beginning the process now due to the time and resources required.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • About MASC
  • Terminology
  • Introduction
  • Current vs. Future Standards
    • Future Data Collection Compliance
    • Future Data Presentation Compliance
  • Methodology
  • Results
    • Data Collection
    • Data Presentation
  • Discussion & Recommendations
  • About the Authors
  • Works Cited
  • Appendix A: Assembly Bill 532
  • Appendix B: Supporting Data

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Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2020-02-20 22:46Z by Steven

Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

Bloomsbury
2020-02-20
224 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9781350099838
EPUB eBook ISBN: 9781350099852
PDF eBook ISBN: 9781350099845

Josie Gill, Lecturer in Black British Writing
University of Bristol, United Kingdom

In this important interdisciplinary study, Josie Gill explores how the contemporary novel has drawn upon, and intervened in, debates about race in late 20th and 21st century genetic science. Reading works by leading contemporary writers including Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, Octavia Butler and Colson Whitehead, Biofictions demonstrates how ideas of race are produced at the intersection of science and fiction, which together create the stories about identity, racism, ancestry and kinship which characterize our understanding of race today. By highlighting the role of narrative in the formation of racial ideas in science, this book calls into question the apparent anti-racism of contemporary genetics, which functions narratively, rather than factually or objectively, within the racialized contexts in which it is embedded. In so doing, Biofictions compels us to rethink the long-asked question of whether race is a biological fact or a fiction, calling instead for a new understanding of the relationship between race, science and fiction.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Roots of African Eve: Science Writing on Human Origins and Alex Haley’s Roots
  • 2. Race, Genetic Ancestry Tracing and Facial Expression: “Focusing on the Faces” in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
  • 3. “One Part Truth and Three Parts Fiction”: Race, Science and Narrative in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
  • 4. “The Sick Swollen Heart of This Land”: Pharmacogenomics, Racial Medicine and Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt
  • 5. Mutilation and Mutation: Epigenetics and Racist Environments in Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Penn Medicine and the Afterlives of Slavery (PMAS) presents: Christianity, Race, and Haunting of the Biomedical Sciences

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2020-02-18 19:13Z by Steven

Penn Medicine and the Afterlives of Slavery (PMAS) presents: Christianity, Race, and Haunting of the Biomedical Sciences

University of Pennsylvania
Max Kade Center
3401 Walnut Street
Suite 329-A
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wednesday, 2020-02-19, 16:00-17:30 EST (Local Time)

Terence Keel, Associate, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the UCLA Institute for Society & Genetics
University of California, Los Angeles

The idea that so-called races reflect inherent biological differences between social groups has been a prominent aspect of Western thought since at least the Enlightenment. While there have been moments of refuting this way of thinking—most notably, the social constructionist thesis emerging as a dominant framework in the aftermath of WWII—fixed biological conceptions of race haunt new genetic technologies, where race is thought to be measurable at the molecular level. Keel argues that the resilience of this naturalized understanding of race may stem less from overtly political motives on the part of scientists and more from our inherited theological traditions that predate the Enlightenment and continue to shape and limit the intellectual horizon of scientific reasoning.

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The pseudoscience of hate

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2020-02-06 18:35Z by Steven

The pseudoscience of hate

The New Statesman
2020-02-05

Anjana Ajuha, Contributing Science Writer
The Financial Times

Genetics does not recognise race as a biologically meaningful concept, but that doesn’t stop racists invoking its findings.

How To Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality. Adam Rutherford Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 224pp, £12.99

Accidental encounters with racists lead me to believe that they are open to neither reason nor self-improvement. I must conclude, then, that a book entitled How to Argue With a Racist will remain untouched by those who would most benefit from reading it. This is a pity, as there is a growing army who have succumbed to a phenomenon known as “race realism”. This is racism reinterpreted for the internet age: a heady brew of misunderstood science, ugly conspiracy and plain old prejudice that forms the basis of (usually) far-right and white supremacist thinking.

Race realism promotes the spurious idea that science has uncovered distinct and meaningful differences between races but that this “truth” is somehow suppressed by snowflake scientists in hock to political correctness. Those supposed truths are then contorted by their abusers into parodies of racial destiny: black men are born to sprint but not to swim; Jews are born into moneylending; and, of course, whites are born above all others. Black people are several rungs below white peers on the social ladder not because of systemic oppression and discrimination but because they are naturally more stupid.

It is a perverse system of thought that seeks to justify racial separateness and conveniently reinforce assertions of white superiority. This is an ideology treading water amid the flood of data pouring out of genetics studies and a mistaken concept of ancestry propagated by the consumer DNA testing market – which happily nurtures fantasies of Viking descent…

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How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2020-02-06 18:26Z by Steven

How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality

Weidenfeld & Nicolson an (imprint of The Orion Publishing Group)
2020-02-06
224 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781474611244
eBook ISBN-13: 9781474611268

Adam Rutherford

How to Argue With a Racist

Race is real because we perceive it. Racism is real because we enact it. But the appeal to science to strengthen racist ideologies is on the rise – and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. Stereotypes and myths about race are expressed not just by overt racists, but also by well-intentioned people whose experience and cultural baggage steers them towards views that are not supported by the modern study of human genetics. Even some scientists are uncomfortable expressing opinions deriving from their research where it relates to race. Yet, if understood correctly, science and history can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be.

How to Argue With a Racist is a vital manifesto for a twenty-first century understanding of human evolution and variation, and a timely weapon against the misuse of science to justify bigotry.

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