Race, Genetics, Medicine and the Museum

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Teaching Resources on 2016-05-30 19:14Z by Steven

Race, Genetics, Medicine and the Museum

Museums & Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse
Volume 11, Issue 1, 2016
Special Issue: Special Issue: Museum, Health & Medicine
pages 53-62
DOI: 10.1080/15596893.2015.1131095

Monique Scott, Director of Museum Studies
Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Research Associate, Anthropology Department
American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York

The natural history museum has long been invested in educating the public about what it means to be human, including human identity, human ancestry and human diversity. With the recent scientific advances in human genomic research and the public fervor for individual genetic ancestry testing, the museum is now challenged both to keep pace with current scientific research and wrestle with popular scientific thinking that circulates outside the museum. This article considers several strategies that the American Museum of Natural History Museum has used to intervene in public perceptions of “race”, genetics and human health through critical interactive dialogue—the museum as a space for audiences of various ages to investigate and interrogate the science and politics of human identity that accompany this new genetic frontier.

Read or purchase the article here.

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‘A Change of Heart’: Racial Politics, Scientific Metaphor and Coverage of 1968 Interracial Heart Transplants in the African American Press

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2016-05-30 16:40Z by Steven

‘A Change of Heart’: Racial Politics, Scientific Metaphor and Coverage of 1968 Interracial Heart Transplants in the African American Press

Social History of Medicine
Published online: 2016-05-26
DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkw052

Maya Overby Koretzky
Johns Hopkins Institute for the History of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

This paper explores the African American response to an interracial heart transplant in 1968 through a close reading of the black newspaper press. This methodological approach provides a window into African American perceptions of physiological difference between the races, or lack thereof, as it pertained to both personal identity and race politics. Coverage of the first interracial heart transplant, which occurred in apartheid South Africa, was multifaceted. Newspapers lauded the transplant as evidence of physiological race equality while simultaneously mobilising the language of differing ‘black’ and ‘white’ hearts to critique racist politics through the metaphor of a ‘change of heart’. While interracial transplant created the opportunity for such political commentary, its material reality—potential exploitation of black bodies for white gain—was increasingly a cause for concern, especially after a contentious heart transplant from a black to a white man in May 1968 in the American South.

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Tales of African-American History Found in DNA

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-05-29 21:06Z by Steven

Tales of African-American History Found in DNA

The New York Times
2016-05-27

Carl Zimmer

The history of African-Americans has been shaped in part by two great journeys.

The first brought hundreds of thousands of Africans to the southern United States as slaves. The second, the Great Migration, began around 1910 and sent six million African-Americans from the South to New York, Chicago and other cities across the country.

In a study published on Friday, a team of geneticists sought evidence for this history in the DNA of living African-Americans. The findings, published in PLOS Genetics, provide a map of African-American genetic diversity, shedding light on both their history and their health.

Buried in DNA, the researchers found the marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slave owners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves.

And there are signs of the migration that led their descendants away from such oppression: Genetically related African-Americans are distributed closely along the routes they took to leave the South, the scientists discovered…

…The history of African-Americans poses special challenges for geneticists. During the slave trade, their ancestors were captured from genetically diverse populations across a portion of West Africa. Adding to the complexity is the fact that living African-Americans also may trace some of their ancestry to Europeans and Native Americans…

…Most of the Native American DNA identified by Dr. Gravel and his colleagues in African-Americans occurs now in tiny chunks. The scientists concluded that most of the mingling between Africans and Native Americans took place soon after the first slaves arrived in the American colonies in the early 1600s.

The European DNA in African-Americans, on the other hand, occurs in slightly longer chunks, indicating a more recent origin. Dr. Gravel and his colleagues estimate that its introduction dates to the decades before the Civil War

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Ghana To Ban Skin Bleaching Products in August

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-05-29 19:51Z by Steven

Ghana To Ban Skin Bleaching Products in August

The Root
2016-05-29

Angela Bronner Helm, Adjunct Profesor of Journalism
City College of New York

The government of Ghana will ban all products containing hydroquinone this summer.

Colorism, that which privileges lighter skin over darker, is an issue that not only affects African Americans, but pretty much all people of color around the world.

From India to Compton, Brazil to Belize, one of the ways in which colorism rears its ugly head is in skin bleaching. We have all seen photos where celebrities such as Dominican baseball player Sammy Sosa or Nigerian-Cameroonian pop singer Dencia bleached their beautiful brown skin to odd shades not found in nature, ostensibly for beauty and prestige. As far back as the 1990s, the Jamaican dancehall song “Dem a Bleach” talked about the phenomenon of using chemicals to alter the color of brown skin.

But the West African nation of Ghana is putting the kibosh on that…

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The Great Migration and African-American Genomic Diversity

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-05-29 14:29Z by Steven

The Great Migration and African-American Genomic Diversity

PLOS Genetics
2016-05-27
27 pages
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006059

Soheil Baharian
Department of Human Genetics
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Maxime Barakatt
McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Christopher R. Gignoux
Department of Genetics
Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

Suyash Shringarpure
Department of Genetics
Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

Jacob Errington
Department of Human Genetics
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

William J. Blot
Division of Epidemiology
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee
International Epidemiology Institute, Rockville, Maryland

Carlos D. Bustamante
Department of Genetics
Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

Eimear E. Kenny
Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York

Scott M. Williams
Department of Genetics
Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

Melinda C. Aldrich
Division of Epidemiology, Department of Thoracic Surgery
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee

Simon Gravel
Department of Human Genetics
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


Fig 3. Pairwise genetic relatedness across US census regions among (A) African-Americans, (B) European-Americans, and (C) African-Americans and European-Americans. (D) Census-based prediction for African-Americans (see Materials and Methods). On each map, the line connecting two regions shows the average relatedness between individuals in those regions, and the thickness and opacity of the lines are on a linear scale between the minimum and maximum values shown above the map. Relatedness between regions with fewer than 10,000 possible pairs of individuals is not shown (see Materials and Methods for details). All numbers are in units of cM. (E) Decay of average IBD (shown in logarithmic scale) as a function of distance using IBD segments of length 18cM or longer from HRS (dots), compared to the analytical model (lines).

Abstract

We present a comprehensive assessment of genomic diversity in the African-American population by studying three genotyped cohorts comprising 3,726 African-Americans from across the United States that provide a representative description of the population across all US states and socioeconomic status. An estimated 82.1% of ancestors to African-Americans lived in Africa prior to the advent of transatlantic travel, 16.7% in Europe, and 1.2% in the Americas, with increased African ancestry in the southern United States compared to the North and West. Combining demographic models of ancestry and those of relatedness suggests that admixture occurred predominantly in the South prior to the Civil War and that ancestry-biased migration is responsible for regional differences in ancestry. We find that recent migrations also caused a strong increase in genetic relatedness among geographically distant African-Americans. Long-range relatedness among African-Americans and between African-Americans and European-Americans thus track north- and west-bound migration routes followed during the Great Migration of the twentieth century. By contrast, short-range relatedness patterns suggest comparable mobility of ∼15–16km per generation for African-Americans and European-Americans, as estimated using a novel analytical model of isolation-by-distance.

Author Summary

Genetic studies of African-Americans identify functional variants, elucidate historical and genealogical mysteries, and reveal basic biology. However, African-Americans have been under-represented in genetic studies, and relatively little is known about nation-wide patterns of genomic diversity in the population. Here, we study African-American genomic diversity using genotype data from nationally and regionally representative cohorts. Access to these unique cohorts allows us to clarify the role of population structure, admixture, and recent massive migrations in shaping African-American genomic diversity and sheds new light on the genetic history of this population.

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Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-05-29 00:55Z by Steven

Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community

University of Washington Press
June 2016
176 pages
1 bandw illus, 2 tables
6 x 9 in
Paperback ISBN: 9780295998503
Hardcover ISBN: 9780295998077

Andrew J. Jolivette, Professor and chair of American Indian studies
San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California

The first book to examine the correlation between mixed-race identity and HIV/AIDS among Native American gay men and transgendered people, Indian Blood provides an analysis of the emerging and often contested LGBTQtwo-spirit” identification as it relates to public health and mixed-race identity.

Prior to contact with European settlers, most Native American tribes held their two-spirit members in high esteem, even considering them spiritually advanced. However, after contact – and religious conversion – attitudes changed and social and cultural support networks were ruptured. This discrimination led to a breakdown in traditional values, beliefs, and practices, which in turn pushed many two-spirit members to participate in high-risk behaviors. The result is a disproportionate number of two-spirit members who currently test positive for HIV.

Using surveys, focus groups, and community discussions to examine the experiences of HIV-positive members of San Francisco’s two-spirit community, Indian Blood provides an innovative approach to understanding how colonization continues to affect American Indian communities and opens a series of crucial dialogues in the fields of Native American studies, public health, queer studies, and critical mixed-race studies.

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“Race” and Science

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2016-05-12 01:55Z by Steven

“Race” and Science

The Common Reader: A Journal of The Essay
2016-04-19

Garland Allen, Professor Emeritus of Biology
Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

A new book traces the complicated legacy of race’s biological conceptions.

Michael Yudell; J. Craig Venter (fore.), Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014)

Some years ago, at an elementary school where I was involved in writing and testing a new science curriculum, I was on the playground when a small white boy ran up to the teacher with whom I was talking and said that another boy just hit him. “Which one?” the teacher asked. Pointing to a black boy on the other side of the yard, he said “The one with the red hat.” Brief as it was, that incident had a profound effect on me, leading to the realization that racism—the recognition of race, especially skin color, as a significant, defining difference between people—has to be taught—it is not inborn. Michael Yudell’s new book, Race Unmasked is the story of how race differences have been fashioned and taught, especially with the aid of science, in 20th century America. The book provides an interesting and relevant historical perspective on an issue that recent events in Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore and elsewhere have demonstrated is still very much a part of American cultural baggage.

As the author tells us in the Introduction, “in the 21st century, understanding the way race was constructed within the biological sciences, particularly within genetics and evolutionary biology, is essential to understanding its broader meanings.” Yudell shows how scientists, even with the best intentions of modernizing or modifying the concept to keep up with current evidence, often wound up reinforcing the standard, popular view, helping to insure its survival. Thus, this book is about the paradoxical way in which changing biological conceptions of race, changed between 1700 and 1950 from a fixed and significant taxonomic to an arbitrary and socially-constructed category, nonetheless left a confusing legacy that did not substantially change the common perception of the existence of sharply-defined racial groups. The author’s attempt to trace the history of this paradox and its evolution in the 20th century forms the central thread of the narrative…

Read the entire review here.

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Day of Absence 2016: Carolyn Prouty – Race-Based Medicine: What It Is And Why It’s a Problem

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2016-05-12 01:22Z by Steven

Day of Absence 2016: Carolyn Prouty – Race-Based Medicine: What It Is And Why It’s a Problem

The Evergreen State College Productions
Olympia, Washington
2016-04-06

Carolyn Prouty

There is no biological basis for race; it is a socially constructed concept. Nonetheless, the structural nature of racism in society manifests itself in different health outcomes for peoples identified as different races, both as the health effect of experiencing racism, and interactions of people of color within the American health care system. Historically, it is clear how biology and anthropology have been misused in explaining differences between groups of humans, and these patterns have helped to reveal unexamined biases of researchers. Yet current uses of genetics in medical practice and research still follow some of these same erroneous paths, for example, confusing ancestry with race, conflating socio-economic conditions with race, and substituting common (and readily recombined) superficial hereditary traits such as skin color and hair shape as proxies for more substantive genetic markers. In this session, we will outline these ideas from biology, medicine, and sociology, beginning with Dorothy Roberts’ TED talk, “The Problem with Race-Based Medicine”, and investigate their applications in current and future practice. We’ll spend time in small group and larger group discussions, as we deconstruct the biology of race, expose some structural biases of American medicine and examine the implications of race-based medicine.

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String of Pearls: Exploring the Melungeon mystery

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-13 00:27Z by Steven

String of Pearls: Exploring the Melungeon mystery

SWVa Today
Wytheville, Virginia
2016-03-29

Margaret Linford, President
Smyth County Genealogical Society, Marion, Virginia

Judge Isaac Freeman spoke to the Smyth County Genealogical Society on Tuesday, March 22, regarding the Melungeon people. He has been intrigued by this topic for many years. His father was best friends with local historian Goodridge Wilson, who often spoke of the Melungeons. Judge Freeman said he can remember him talking about which local families were part of this unique group.

“Where have all the purebred Melungeons gone?” This question was posed in an article many years ago. Judge Freeman laughed as he shared this question with our group. “Of course,” he said, “the answer to this question is that there is no such thing as a ‘purebred’ Melungeon.”

Who are the Melungeons? There is no simple answer to this question. In N. Brent Kennedy’s book, “The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America,” he proposes that Turkish slaves were brought to America by Portuguese sailors. Once they arrived in America, they joined with female Cherokee Indians and other local tribes. This was the beginning of the “Melungeons.”

Most definitions of the Melungeons simply state that they are a “mixed race people.”…

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AmbryShare Restores Genes to the Public Domain

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-01 21:24Z by Steven

AmbryShare Restores Genes to the Public Domain

The Huffington Post
2016-03-29

Amal Cheema, Biochemistry and Political Science Student
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

“As a stage four cancer survivor, I find it shocking that public and private laboratories routinely lock away vital genomic information. That practice is delaying medical progress, causing real human suffering, and it needs to stop.” —Ambry Genetics CEO and founder Charles Dunlop

In its purest form, science seeks to determine how the world works and endeavors to improve the human condition. Yet, the current culture of research undermines this value-system, as institutions across the nation look for ways to capitalize on discoveries. The commodification of information, particularly of the genome, hinders innovation and prevents the discovery of novel drugs and cures., researchers can either seek revenue for their underfunded research or ensure the accessibility of scientific knowledge, but they can’t do both.

It’s not clear whether academic solidarity will prevail, universities increasingly rely upon licensing revenues and keep information proprietary. Although genes can no longer be patented in the U.S. due to the 2013 Supreme Court case, Association for Molecular Pathology et al. v. Myriad Genetics, most researchers perceive little benefit in sharing raw data. They silo their work and therefore, hamper innovation. The solution to this roadblock lies in the new, remediating, and open-access genomic libraries.

Ambry Genetics (Ambry), a leading genetics company, recently revealed its bypass to closed-door labs and patented information. It created a genomic library, AmbryShare, making the DNA data of 10,000 people available online to the public. And it’s the first private company to do so. While Ambry retains copyright, researchers now can easily download the data for free and investigate the genetic determinants of disease…

…Yet AmbryShare is not without its critics. Some fear that the database will lead to false positives and privacy breaches. Bioethicists like Dorothy Roberts of UPenn Law worry about false positives, such as race-specific gene differences. Roberts asserts that society has politically constructed race without a biological basis, and that researchers could support racism by misattributing differences in the genome as evidence of race. Scientists can address this concern by removing the race question from patient profiles…

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