NIH-funded project will investigate genetic susceptibilities in minority populations

Sept. 9, 2013
Dr. Kari North

Dr. Kari North

Kari North, PhD, has received a four-year, $3.1 million National Institutes of Health grant that aims to uncover connections between genetic variants and some of the complex diseases that affect Hispanics and African-Americans.

North is associate professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The grant program, CALICO II, or Genetic Epidemiology of Causal Variants Across the Life Course (Phase II), will produce analysis of DNA collected from several large studies that include African-American and Hispanic participants. The findings will pinpoint rare variants that might play a part in heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

Previous genomic studies of this sort have been conducted with non-diverse populations. The researchers intend to study ancestrally diverse populations, particularly those often underrepresented in disease research and who suffer the greatest disease burden, to understand the total pool of genes and genetic variants likely to affect disease susceptibility.

“We know, for instance, that African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans tend to have a higher incidence of high blood pressure and obesity, along with accompanying heart disease and risk of stroke, compared to populations of European descent,” North said. “Investigating ancestrally diverse populations will allow us to better understand how genetic factors influence disease susceptibility in all U.S. populations.”
 
Four other research teams received similar grants to study the genomics of disease susceptibility in ethnically diverse populations. The teams include researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle; University of California at Los Angeles; University of Hawaii; Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York; and Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.).
 
Funding is made available through the Population Architecture Using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

 
Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.