An ‘unprecedented’ analysis underlines profound failure to study African genomes

By Sharon Begley, STAT

It has become the geneticist’s version of, “What, me not inclusive? But I have a black friend!” In the case of modern studies of DNA, researchers called to task for studying mainly European populations often defend themselves by pointing out that they included some Yoruba (or Khoisan or Bantu or other African) DNA in their analysis, too.

Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) on Tuesday and Wednesday shows how “woefully inadequate” such tokenism is, said Dr. Neil Hanchard of Baylor College of Medicine, who led one of the studies.

He and his colleagues sequenced the genomes of 426 people from 13 African countries and 50 ethnolinguistic groups from across the continent, producing “an unprecedented, in-depth cataloging of the genetic diversity of people across the African continent,” said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a medical geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the ASHG program committee who was not involved in the study. Read more …