Race-Based Medicine

Genetics for the human race
November 2004
Nature Genetics

This month, in a special issue on race published by the journal Nature Genetics, several geneticists wrote that people can generally be assigned to their continent of origin on the basis of their DNA, and that these broad geographical regions correspond to self-identified racial categories, such as African, East Asian, European and Native American. Race, in other words, does have a genetic basis, in their view.

But researchers from Howard University, a center of African-American scholarship, argued in the same journal that there was no biological basis for race and that any apparent link between genes and disease should be made directly, without taking race into account.

Most geneticists agree with the Howard researchers that the underlying genes, not race as such, is what is important for understanding disease. But many say that race can be a valuable clue. In the case of BiDil, race was essential to proving the drug’s effectiveness. ”It was the only way we had – there was no other marker that would tell us how to select a population that would respond,” Dr. Cohn said.

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