This lesson is intended to help you understand that an individual’s genetic makeup combines with environmental factors such as nutrition, access to healthcare, and social experience to shape his or her experience of disease. An important point the lesson conveys is that incidence of disease is not correlated with skin color (“race”).
Science Bulletins: Genes and Health—Moving Beyond Race
1. “When we use words like ‘black,’ ‘white,’ or ‘race,’ we are not being scientific. We are not being clear. We are looking at the color of their skin instead of their biology.” (0:05, Charles N. Rotimi, Ph.D., the director of the Center for Research on Genetics and Global Health)
2. “Human genetic variation is the result of groups that have lived isolated from each other for a very long time.” (2:26, Dr. Rotimi)
3. “We use ancestry right now because it gives us a clue as to where to find the gene that’s involved in the pathogenesis of asthma … When we know those specific genes, we can genetically test each individual and determine what their risk factor is at a given region of the genome, and forget about those notions of race and ethnicity.” (5:25, Esteban Gonzáles Bouchard, M.D., Physician Scientist, Center for Genes, Environments & Health, University of California–San Francisco)
4. “Asian, European, African, Hispanic—those are all short-hands that will go away with time. When we actually know what genes individuals carry, then we can look at the whole genome in a systematic manner and see if we will find things that may be related to disease or health. And once we are able to do that, then race is completely irrelevant.” (5:59, Dr. Rotimi)
1. Describe the effects of each disease.
2. Describe how genes may contribute to the development of each disease.
3. Provide an example of how development of the disease can be ameliorated through environmental interventions.
4. Explain any links between these diseases and a person’s skin color.