Geneticist to explore ethnic differences in susceptibility to high blood pressure and other diseases.

Five research teams have been awarded significant grants by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the genetic makeup of various ethnic groups. The aim is to explain differences in risks for hypertension, high blood lipids, and other common diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

As part of the Population Architecture Using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) program, the project will look at African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups. This is the second PAGE project initiated by the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Epidemiologist Lucia Hindorff, Ph.D., PAGE program director at NHGR, said in a statement that the “program aims to investigate ancestrally diverse populations to gain a better understanding of how genetic factors such as SNPs influence susceptibility to disease.”

The first project focused on whites and Hindorff explained that they “wanted the second group of grants to focus on nonwhites, because many tend to have a greater incidence of disease. There are often population-related biological pathways that contribute to disease, so looking at many traits and diseases together give a more complete picture of the role of genetic variation.”

The first team, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will analyze DNA collected from studies involving Hispanic and African-American participants to try connect genetic variations and complex diseases and conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, will focus on minority populations and the development of common diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, as well as conditions such as inflammation, high glucose, insulin resistance, and abnormal lipid levels.

The University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, will examine the DNA from a population-based study of more than 215,000, 45 to 75 year-old African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians, and whites who are at varying risk for chronic diseases.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, will examine several ethnically diverse communities in New York City, while Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, will serve as the project’s coordinating center.

The teams received more than $3.8 million this year and, depending on fund availably, are will receive nearly $14 million over the next four years.

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