Genomic medicine is deeply biased towards white people

IF YOUR doctor suspects you might have type 2 diabetes, they will want to know your average blood sugar level, which typically means taking a glycated haemoglobin test. This method of diagnosis is recommended by the World Health Organization and used pretty much everywhere. The problem, as Deepti Gurdasani discovered in 2019, is that the test may not work for everyone. Gurdasani and her colleagues found that a gene variant present in almost a quarter of people with sub-Saharan African ancestry alters the levels of glycated haemoglobin in their blood independent of blood sugar. This suggests they will be more likely to be falsely diagnosed with diabetes, she says. Gurdasani’s discovery is just the latest in a growing list of medical injustices resulting from the fact that the vast majority…
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Human placentas are full of mutated cells dumped by the embryo

THE human placenta is riddled with cancer-like patterns of mutations. But the discovery is better news than it might appear: it is helping scientists open a new window on the mysterious world of early human development. In some ways, the placenta is a forgotten organ. It begins to form shortly after fertilisation from the embryo’s cells and then helps to support the future fetus as it develops before it is discarded at birth. But … “I AM not just busy, I am being overwhelmed by an onslaught of requests like yours…” There is a certain irony to the email I have just received: the pioneer of burnout research is feeling utterly swamped by work. Christina Maslach, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, spearheaded the study of burnout back…
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Some mouse sperm try to sabotage rivals in race to fertilise the egg

Sperm have one goal – to reach the egg and fertilise it – and it seems that some mouse sperm cells carrying a certain genetic mutation may boost their chances of doing so by sabotaging their rivals. Bernhard Herrmann at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, and his colleagues analysed sperm samples from mice. They found that sperm from some mice, carrying a genetic variant called the t haplotype, move faster and swim in straight lines. Other sperm without this variant from the same mice swim less productively, often moving slower and in circles. Previous research has shown that mice with two copies the t haplotype genetic variant are more likely to be infertile, but this new study suggests that males with one copy of the…
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