Addressing Health and Neuroscience Research Disparities
On March 18, 2019, the African-American Clergy Medical Research Initiative and the Lieber Institute for Brain Development announced the establishment of the Nation’s first African-American Neuroscience Research Initiative.
The African-American Neuroscience Research Initiative aims to establish a road map to help close the gap in health disparities and accelerate research efforts that will lead to new treatments for brain disorders.
Current Landscape of Genomic Research
Genomic research has the potential to provide some of the most personalized and effective medical treatments for many medical disorders, including: heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and schizophrenia. However, minority groups are inadequately represented in these large-scale genomic studies.
“My clergy colleagues and I have been studying the emerging science behind precision medicine and believe that this technology has potential for finding cures and treatments for diseases that uniquely affect African Americans. This revolution in medicine has largely left behind ethnic minority groups like African Americans, and it is time to change this.”
Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., Principal, African-American Clergy Medical Research Initiative / Read Full Article
Research has long been hampered by a lack of diversity in basic science and in clinical trials, particularly in the field of neuroscience. For example, 81% of large-scale genomic datasets are of European descent, even though this group makes up less than 16% of the world population.
In neuroscience research studies of brain disorders, underrepresented minority groups, including African Americans, make up less than 5% of research cohorts. Research shows that African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population and twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Suicide rates for African-American children under the age of 13 are twice as high as children of European ancestry.
Why Ancestry Matters
The degree of genomic diversity is the highest among African ancestry populations, as a result of population history. There are examples of ancestral variations that contribute to risk for disease or response to treatment across populations.
“The potential knowledge gained through this research will help not just individuals of African ancestry, but will also help all people. It’s by studying the most complex representatives of genetic diversity in the context of the human brain that we will ultimately understand how to customize therapy and maximize the effectiveness of treatments.”
Daniel R. Weinberger, M.D., CEO & Director, Lieber Institute for Brain Development/ Read Full Article
The Baltimore Sun featured the African-American Neuroscience Research Initiative on Monday, March 18, 2019.
Rev. Alvin Hathaway & Dr. Daniel Weinberger co-authored a piece on the significance of the new initiative.
Official Press Release
Read the official press release announcing the Initiative.
Dr. Weinberger interviewed on the launch of the African-American Neuroscience Research Initiative.