Race and Medicine

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Source: Radiolab

URL http://www.radiolab.org/2008/dec/15/race-and-medicine/

Summary: (From the Radiolab website) When the human genome was first fully mapped in 2000, Bill Clinton, Craig Venter, and Francis Collins took the stage and pronounced that "The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis." Great words spoken with great intentions. But what do they really mean, and where do they leave us? Our genes are nearly all the same, but that hasn't made race meaningless, or wiped out our evolving conversation about it.

Program Context: This podcast explores genetic similarities and differences between human populations and how these have been incorporated into constructs of race, in both the scientific community and the general public. The use of DNA analysis for ancestral markers is discussed, including its application in forensics and direct-to-consumer genetic testing. The podcast also explores real and perceived population differences in the frequency of certain traits, from athleticism to sickle cell anemia, and debates the various contributions of genes and environment.

  • For more on the nature of ancestral markers, see the learning module Population Issues.
  • Populations differences in traits and gene frequency are discussed further in the learning module Variation.
  • Contributions of genes and environment are explored further in the learning module Gene-Environment Interaction.
  • Linking Genes with Environment provides an example of research that examines the combined influence of genes and social environment.
  • For an example of research integrating social and genetic perspectives on race and population differences, see the case study Initiating Collaborations.
  • The social and ethical implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing are discussed further in the learning module Clinical Issues.
  • The Research in Action case study Crossing Disciplines discusses the role of genetics in health disparities between populations.


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