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Published on 4 March 2008

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Racial “link” to drug reactions


Genetic racial differences can affect the way in which people of European and African descent respond to drug treatments, according to new research.

American scientists measured the activity of more than 9,000 genes and found that for almost 5% of them levels differed significantly between ethnic groups.

They also recorded major differences in genes producing antibodies against microbial infection, while activity levels also differed widely among genes involved in fundamental cellular processes which would be expected to have an impact on drug responses and side effects.

The researchers, whose work is published in the online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics, looked at gene “expression”, or activity, in cell lines donated by 180 healthy individuals.

Professor Eileen Dolan, from the University of Chicago, who led the research, said: “Our primary interest is the genes that regulate how people respond to medicines, such as cancer chemotherapy.

“We want to understand why different populations experience different degrees of toxicity when taking certain drugs and learn how to predict who might be most at risk for drug side effects.

“Population differences in gene expression have only recently begun to be investigated.

“We believe they play a significant role in susceptibility to disease and in regulating drug response. Our current research focuses on how these genetic and expression differences play a role in sensitivity to adverse effects associated with chemotherapy.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

American Journal of Human Genetics

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