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Building Bridges
Nutritional Genomics Center Hosts Conference on Genomics, Health & Race Disparities

On August 18th and 19th, in this first-ever, two-day event, CHORI and the National Center for Minority Health Disparities (NCMHD) Center of Excellence in Nutrition Genomics will bring together the country’s leading researchers to engage in a national dialogue on the spectrum of issues connected to race and genomics as it relates to health disparities.

Organized by Ronald Krauss, MD, Senior Scientist at CHORI, and in partnership with the NCMHD Center for Excellence in Nutritional Genomics, the conference participants will include such big-name participants as Nicholas Wade, the science writer for the New York Times, and Jeffrey Drazen, MD, the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and Harvard University.

“This is a really unique collection of individuals across a broad spectrum of areas,” says Dr. Krauss. “That’s one of the best things about the conference that will create a very healthy and spirited dialogue about an important and timely issue.”

Before the human genome was sequenced, experts were more engaged with how genetically similar human beings were. With the advent of the human genome sequence, however, the discussion has shifted to genetic differences and population diversity.

“This conference will help explain why the dialogue on human genomics changed so dramatically” says Dr. Raymond Rodriguez, director of the Center of Excellence of Nutritional Genomics.

Dr. Krauss and his colleagues have recognized the need for an open discussion that addresses both the science behind the genetics as well as the ethical and social issues that arise from the application of that science. As such, in addition to the community of genetic and medical researchers, the conference will also host leading anthropologists and sociologists.
In fact, one of the reasons that this research is so critical is because it isn’t safe to assume anything about racial backgrounds from visual appearance, especially in this country, where, as Dr. Krauss points out, there is tremendous admixture of populations. Knowing the best ways in which to treat – or prevent – disease can often be integrally tied to understanding an individual’s genetic underpinnings.

“We are moving toward an era in which personalized medicine is a real possibility. It’s just a matter of time before the tools are there to improve outcomes,” says Dr. Krauss.

“We’re trying in this conference to increase the recognition that the genetic variation in population subgroups is extremely critical in order to move forward.”

Toward that end, the vision of the conference is to help

people from all perspectives understand each other, with the goal of bridging the science and the social responsibility.

“There is some really interesting information we can derive from the science that helps us understand our origins and how we have evolved,” says Dr. Krauss. “Ultimately, this understanding should lead to new approaches for improving our overall health. That’s what we hope this conference is going to help achieve.”

Monday, May 16, 2011 11:33 PM

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