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NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities (NICGHD)

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Also listed as: NICGHD
Related terms
Background
Methods
Research
Implications
Limitations
Future research
Author information
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Disease, epidemiology, ethnicity, genetics, genomics, health disparities, minorities, NICGHD, race.

Background
  • In March 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities (NICGHD). This institute was established to study possible interactions among culture, lifestyle, genetics, genomics, and health. The purpose of the NICGHD is to understand the different ways in which populations are affected by diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Information collected for this purpose includes genetic, clinical, lifestyle, and socioeconomic data. The NICGHD is led by genetic epidemiologist Charles N. Rotimi.
  • While the genetic makeup of any two individuals is nearly identical, it is the minute genetic differences that lead to unique biological traits. These may range from hair and eye color to how an individual responds to a drug to whether he or she develops type 2 diabetes. The ultimate aim of NICGHD is to provide health-related benefits to minority populations by looking at health disparities from a genomics perspective, combining genetic and environmental information.
  • NICGHD is administered by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and receives support from the NIH Office of the Director, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the Center for Information Technology. NICGHD also collaborates with the Center for Minority Health.
  • The NIH includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Methods
  • The NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities (NICGHD) is in its infancy in understanding how genetic variations affect disease across different populations. The level of information the NICGHD is currently collecting comprises information as to why certain populations have a higher incidence of certain diseases. Drawing upon the experience of the director, a team will develop models that explore patterns of complex diseases that affect populations living in Africa, China, and the United States, among others.
  • The research activities of NICGHD will take place on the NIH Bethesda, Maryland, campus. The NICGHD will offer training for students and post-doctoral level scientists from developing countries and from minority groups within the United States.

Research
  • The goal of NICGHD is to understand how genetic variations affect disease across populations. As a result of the variation in usage of racial and ethnic terms and classifications in population-based genomic research, there will be a need to standardize these definitions and the criteria on which they are based. Until these definitions are standardized, the usefulness of these variables is questionable.
  • Using genomics tools to understand why certain populations have higher rates of disease may lead to greater understanding of population-based differences in the presence of disease, and differences in access to medical care.

Implications
  • There may be some concern about the implications of information from the study of health-related disparities in minority populations, including the potential denial of healthcare coverage based on evidence suggesting that certain individuals are at higher risk of developing certain diseases. There may also be some apprehension that this type of research may lead to various types of discrimination, including in the workplace and against whole populations.
  • As a result of the variation in usage of racial and ethnic terms and classifications in population-based genomic research, there will be a need to standardize these definitions and the criteria on which they are based. Until then, the usefulness of these variables is questionable.
  • Future legislative policy on population-based genomics research will need to consider the perceptions of scientists when determining how to analyze the integration of molecular genetics, race-based therapies, and social and ethical considerations.

Limitations
  • The NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities (NICGHD) is in its infancy in understanding how genetic variations affect disease across different populations.

Future research
  • The NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities (NICGHD) has a range of plans for future research. The director will continue to work in the "triangular relationship between obesity, hypertension, and diabetes" among African populations. There is an ongoing genome-wide association scans being conducted in Washington, DC, among African-Americans that will allow for the identification of disease-susceptibility genes for common diseases using thousands of samples. In the future, there will be a genome-wide association scan in China involving about 2,000 patients with and without type 2 diabetes.
  • Future studies are likely to include studies in pharmacogenomics, which involves examining the influence of genetic variation on drug response in patients, and the implications for disease distribution and new drug discovery.

Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Egalite N, Ozdemir V, Godard B. Pharmacogenomics research involving racial classification: qualitative research findings on researchers' views, perceptions and attitudes towards socioethical responsibilities. Pharmacogenomics. 2007;8(9):1115-26.
  2. Genetics Home Reference. .
  3. Hunt LM, Megyesi MS. The ambiguous meanings of the racial/ethnic categories routinely used in human genetics research. Soc Sci Med. 2008;66(2):349-61.
  4. Lavizzo-Mourey R. Racial disparities in health care: quality should mean equality. Healthc Financ Manage. 2008;62(1):102-4.
  5. National Human Genome Research Institute. National Institutes of Health. .
  6. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. .
  7. Torres JB, Kittles RA. The relationship between "race" and genetics in biomedical research. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2007;9(3):196-201.
  8. Zabaleta J, Schneider BG, Byckman K, et al. Ethnic differences in cytokine gene polymorphisms: potential implications for cancer development. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2008;57(1):107-14.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


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