Historically, most large-scale immunogenomic studies – those that explore the association between genes and disease – have been conducted with a bias in favor of individuals of European descent. Corey T. Watson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Louisville, leads a call to actively diversify the genetic resources that he and his fellow immunogenomics researchers use in their work to make advancing genomic medicine in a more equitable manner.
Watson, along with UofL postdoctoral fellow Oscar Rodriguez, Ph.D., and visiting fellow Yana Safonova, Ph.D., are part of an international group of researchers who say narrow studies limit their ability to identify variations in human adaptation. immune responses across populations.
“We need to better understand how genetics influence the functioning of the immune system by studying population cohorts that better represent the diversity observed across the world if we are to fully understand disease susceptibility, as well as to design more preventive treatments and measures. tailored, âWatson said.
In an article published in Natural methodsDiversity in Immunogenomics: The Value and the Challenge, the group advocates that resources used in immunogenomics research actively include and specifically identify additional populations and minority groups. They say such diversity will make their research more relevant and help understand diseases associated with population-specific genes and ancestry, leading to improvements in patient care.
âAs scientists, we have a say in the populations studied. Therefore, it is essential for us to actively include individuals representative of the world in which we live. This is especially critical for genes that are as diverse and clinically relevant as those that code for antibodies and T cell receptors, âRodriguez said.
Watson’s research focuses on immune function and molecular genetics. His team is studying a specific area of ââthe genetic code that controls antibody function in order to better understand how differences in an individual’s genes determine their susceptibility to certain diseases or immune responses to vaccines.
Together with Melissa Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, the team is leading the largest efforts in sequencing antibody gene regions in humans and in animal models, has Watson said.
“In particular in humans, we are working to create catalogs of genetic variation in samples from several ethnic origins and are engaged in projects that seek to understand how this genetic variation influences the immune response in contexts of infection, vaccination and other diseases, âhe said.
Watson is involved in efforts to improve the resources and data standards for antibody and T cell receptor genes for immunogenomics researchers around the world.
The article in Natural methods was co-authored by researchers from the United States, Canada, Norway, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Africa, Nigeria , Chile, Peru, China, Japan, Taiwan and French Polynesia with expertise in biomedical and translational research, population genetics and public health, health disparities and computational biology as well as immunogenomics.
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