Giving Compass' Take:

• New research indicates that genetic studies need diversity to better understand how diseases and mutations work across different populations.

• Since most studies include people of European descent, there needs to be a push in the medical research community for more ethnically diverse participants. How can this happen to improve precision medicine?

• Read more about precision medicine and diversity.

“The promise of precision medicine that improves health will not be achieved with studies based solely on people of primarily European ancestry,” says Tara Matise, a professor who chairs the genetics department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We need more diversity in genetic studies and better scientific methods and awareness of how to handle that diversity.”

The research is important to identify mutations that can cause debilitating diseases so scientists can develop effective treatments, the researchers say. Genetic mutations that contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes may not be the same in all ethnicities.

In the US, where minority populations have higher levels of chronic health conditions, the lack of diverse populations in genetic research will lead to unequal access to precision medicine for minorities, researchers say.

One example of the findings: A genetic mutation linked to blood sugar levels occurs in 1 percent of Hispanic/Latino people and in about 6 percent of the African American population, but is rare in Europeans. That’s important information for health care providers, because patients with the mutation might have blood tests that could lead physicians to falsely conclude their glucose levels are under control, researchers say.

“Our study confirmed that the apparent effects of the same genetic variant often vary across populations,” says senior author Steve Buyske, an associate professor in the statistics department. “A genetic variant with a big effect in people of European descent may have a smaller effect in other populations, and vice versa.”

Read the full article about genetic studies need diversity by Todd Bates at Futurity.