The Genomic Route To Targeted Cures


The scientists discovered close to 200,000 DNA markers in Asians, which had been previously unreported in existing genetic databases. The catalogues that are now used for disease-association studies in Asia, including India, are those that have primarily been generated in western populations, hence of limited use in Asia.” The scientists also found 23 per cent of previously unreported protein variants. “Since alterations of proteins are usually associated with disease, we specifically investigated those DNA variants that alter proteins.

“Medicines will become more specific and more useful to us. More imp­ortantly, we will not use the medicines that do not work for us, distinguished scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and former director at the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, tells Outlook. Rao says that the same medicines used in the West are “being used without context in Asia, but now studies show that certain mutations (in DNA) are probably benign.”

While the fundamental biology discovered by genetic studies at individual sites in the genome are mostly shared across humanity, studies carried out primarily in a single population means we miss low-hanging fruit in other populations, and limit the utility of genomic prediction across other populations. Heritable risk of complex diseases several-fold more accurately in European populations than in non-Europeans,” putting it down to a lack of similar databases in other countries. “Studies such as this one will help close that gap.

The study also paints a finer picture of how the South Asian populations were formed, while throwing up interesting facets. Close to 4 million years ago, two precursors to modern-day ­humans—the Neanderthal and the Denisovan—evolved. While it was earlier thought that the homo sapien (modern human) wiped out both, our DNA contains a large admixture with them, the degree of mixing varying across Asia.

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