• Cracking the gene pool

    Cracking the gene pool

    A chip has been created to target genetic variation in people of African descent. It contains millions of genetic variations that are common on the continent, and has the potential to help scientists develop treatments that would work better on Africans.

    Even though the continent’s people are the most genetically varied in the world, most of the research done so far regarding genetics has been concentrated on Caucasians. Developed countries have already started practising the scanning of patients’ genes to manufacture tailor-made treatment programmes.

    According to a Quartz Africa report, scientists hope that the continent’s as yet unchartered genetic variations will aid in explaining why Africans are more susceptible to certain conditions. Therefore, the chip has been fed data from dozens of population groups – from the Khoisan in the south to the Yoruba in the west and Masaai in the east – and has collected tens of thousands of samples to study genetic links for diseases such as diabetes, sleeping sickness, rheumatic heart disease and TB.

    ‘This will be the first chip that has been created to specifically target genetic variation in African populations and people of African descent,’ says Nicola Mulder, a bioinformatician at the University of Cape Town, who led the work on the chip.

    15 November 2016
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images