Genome project finds variations within ethnic groups | December 14, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 14, 2012

Genome project finds variations within ethnic groups

Research could help advance study of genetic diseases

by Sue Dremann

When it comes to a person's chances of getting a disease, one's ethnicity may not be as telling as some people believe, according to new research published by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists and others.

This story contains 908 words.

If you are a paid subscriber, check to make sure you have logged in. Otherwise our system cannot recognize you as having full free access to our site.

If you are a paid print subscriber and haven't yet set up an online account, click here to get your online account activated.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2012 at 10:01 am

This is an incredibly interesting project—but it's not clear how the research will necessarily be linked to "disease", given that there are thousands of "diseases", and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of genetic differences in all of the "ethnic" groups found on the planet.

Moreover, this work will generate so much data that no living human being will be able to assimilate very much of the results of this research. There is so much computation needed that these folks ought to get themselves a couple super computers to help reduce the time to do the data reductions, and statistical inference work that is needed to make meaningful predictions.

Well .. best of luck to them .. this is a really difficult area of endeavor.

Posted by Lohengrin, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Even WASPs can have mixed ethnicity and not know it. After I had double pneumonia several years ago, I had an irregular heartbeat as an after-effect for a while, as well as an unusually high cholesterol level for a vegan. Some genetic blood tests were done by a local cardiologist and a lab named Berkeley Heartlab, I found I had markers in my blood for genetic diseases found in nationalities I did not know I was a part of!! The reason for my high cholesterol in spite of my lack of animals in my diet, was a Celtic genetic marker found in my blood that causes my liver to produce more cholesterol than I need. I never even knew I had Scottish, Irish, or Welsh blood in my lines! I grew up,thinking I was German and Swedish all this time.

Posted by Lohengrin, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

The importance of knowing this occurred to me when I realized I might have passed this defect on to my son, who was unaware of Celtic roots. He had his doctor refer him to Berkeley Heartlab where tests revealed that he, too had the marker for high cholesterol. As a result, he was put on medication for this in his twenties.

Posted by maguro_01, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm

AFAIK, "Hispanic" is a US invention, a social construct, lumping together a lot of people who speak close spins on Spanish and usually have brown eyes.

A friend who worked in social services for the city of Chicago once told me that Chicago started out with Mexican neighborhoods, Salvadoran neighborhoods, Columbian neighborhoods, and so on. The people did not particularly identify with one another. Then after Hispanics were invented they found themselves given a common identity and interests. So naturally such social constructs would not coincide with any genetic map.

Native Americans must have been subject to being similarly pushed together in spite of their varied histories and linguistic diversity. One wonders if "unassigned" might reflect the waves of migration from Asia to the Americas over thousands of years (??).

It will be interesting to follow this project and others. Here in California it's well worth the expense given the increasingly diverse population from everywhere. We read that it's not just disease or susceptibility to disease but organ transplants and so on also. Some demographics are apparently underserved.

Posted by MIDTOWN, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

In addition to my grown children from a second marriage, I've been able to reach two from a previous marriage to inform them about my parents' medical histories and mine. They and their children should know about any potential inheritance of disease or susceptibility to disease. Heart problems, diabetes, and other diseases may have a genetic origin that your grandchildren might not suspect. GIVE THEM A BREAK! If you can reach them, let them know.