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Clin Genet. 2009 Sep;76(3):225-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0004.2009.01263.x.

Recent advances of genetic ancestry testing in biomedical research and direct to consumer testing.

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  • 1Institute for Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-2911, USA.


In the post-Human Genome Project era, the debate on the concept of race/ethnicity and its implications for biomedical research are dependent on two critical issues: whether and how to classify individuals and whether biological factors play a role in health disparities. The advent of reliable estimates of genetic (or biogeographic) ancestry has provided this debate with a quantitative and more objective tool. The estimation of genetic ancestry allows investigators to control for population stratification in association studies and helps to detect biological causation behind population-specific differences in disease and drug response. New techniques such as admixture mapping can specifically detect population-specific risk alleles for a disease in admixed populations. However, researchers have to be mindful of the correlation between genetic ancestry and socioeconomic and environmental factors that could underlie these differences. More importantly, researchers must avoid the stigmatization of individuals based on perceived or real genetic risks. The latter point will become increasingly sensitive as several 'for profit companies' are offering ancestry and genetic testing directly to consumers and the consequences of the spread of the services of these companies are still unforeseeable.

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