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Race & Genetics Research

February 11, 2016

Some researchers argue that the concept of race should be eliminated from genetic studies.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Race and genetics research. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Understanding human genetic diversity is important for developing new medical treatments. But researchers writing in the journal Science argue that while race has often been used to investigate this diversity, the practice is hampering scientific progress. Drexel University public health ethicist Michael Yudell:

MICHAEL YUDELL (Drexel University):

We believe the race concept should be removed from genetics research.

We’re arguing simply that race is not a useful tool to study human genetic diversity and that there is potential harm in doing so: the way in which it reinforces ideas that there are discreet biological differences between populations of people.

HIRSHON:

What’s more, some medical conditions can go under-diagnosed because of assumptions regarding the race they’re “supposed” to affect. Yudell’s team recommends that genetic researchers focus on geographical ancestry rather than race. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.