First African American Genome Scan for Disease Genes Will Use Affymetrix 500K Arrays
Researchers from Howard University and Boston University join forces to find genes associated with obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome
Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2006 – Affymetrix Inc. (Nasdaq: AFFX) announced this week that researchers from Howard University and Boston University will perform the first genome-wide scan of an African American cohort searching for genes associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes and metabolic syndrome using the Affymetrix GeneChip® Human Mapping 500K Array Set.
This collaborative study will be an important first step in understanding how genetics contribute to the disease burden of populations of African ancestry. Charles Rotimi, Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University and current president of the African Society of Human Genetics, and Michael Christman, Ph.D., chair of the Genetics and Genomics Department at Boston University, will lead the study. The initial phase of the project will take less than a year and the team is hoping to secure additional funding to expand the study to include additional unique African cohorts.
To watch a full Affymetrix UserForum interview with Dr. Christman on this study, please visit
Dr. Rotimi’s team has conducted a number of family-based cohort studies on African populations. His areas of focus have been diabetes, obesity, hypertension and translational research.
“African Americans tend to have a higher frequency of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome than European Americans,” said Dr. Rotimi. “Through this first study, we hope to determine the genes associated with these complex diseases and discover how they may interact with different environmental factors, so we can develop more effective treatments for all Americans and people around the world.”
“The initial phase of the International HapMap Project has been a valuable resource for genetic studies and tells us that a very high SNP density is needed in studies of chromosomes of African ancestry,” said Dr. Christman. “The Affymetrix 500K Array includes many of the common SNPs that extend beyond the HapMap Project, enabling us to truly examine the genes associated with complex diseases affecting African Americans. We are very excited about working closely with Dr. Rotimi and his group at Howard on this project.”
Dr. Christman recently led a team of international scientists that discovered the first common genetic variant predisposing to obesity. The study, entitled “A Common Genetic Variant is Associated with Obesity,” appeared in the April 14, 2006, issue of the journal Science. The group also performed the first dense genome scan of the Framingham Heart Study cohort, which consists primarily of European Americans.
“We plan on expanding the Affymetrix control database to include populations from around the world to better support more focused projects like this African American cohort study,” said Sean George, Ph.D., vice president, Academic Business Unit at Affymetrix. “Dr. Christman’s team brings a strong understanding of obesity and other disorders to the project, and Dr. Rotimi’s team has considerable expertise in the genetic epidemiology of complex diseases in African Americans and other populations of the African Diaspora. This combination of researchers and Affymetrix 500K technology will help provide answers that had not been possible before.”
The resulting data from the first genome-wide scan of an African American cohort will be included within the Affymetrix Control Program. The program provides free, public access to control cohort data for whole-genome association studies using Affymetrix GeneChip genotyping arrays. Affymetrix is collaborating with leading researchers around the world as part of this program. For more information on the Affymetrix Control Program, please visit http://www.affymetrix.com/userForum/news/collaborations/schreiber.uf.
Researchers from Boston University's Genetics and Genomics Department recently announced the release of a public Web site that contains pre-publication results from a 116,000 SNP/individual genome-wide association study of the Framingham Heart Study Cohort. GMED (Genomic Medicine Database) was established to help researchers rapidly disseminate links between specific human genetic variants and traits such as obesity, hypertension, blood glucose and cholesterol levels so that the findings can be compared with results obtained by other scientists and clinicians performing genome-wide association studies. For more information, please visit http://gmed.bu.edu.
About Howard University’s National Human Genome Center (NHGC)
Founded in 2001, the NHGC is a comprehensive resource for genomic research on African Americans and other African Diaspora populations. The NHGC’s mission is to explore the science and teach about DNA sequence variation and its interaction with the environment in the causality, prevention, and treatment of diseases common in African American and other African Diaspora populations.
Howard University is one of 48 U.S. private, Doctoral/Research-Extensive universities and comprises 12 schools and colleges. Founded in 1867, students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, a Truman Scholar, 13 Fulbright Scholars and nine Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D.s than any other university in the world. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University’s website at www.howard.edu.
About Boston University School of Medicine’s (BUSM) Department of Genetics and Genomics
Founded in 2002, the Genetics and Genomics Department at BUSM consists of faculty and researchers with the combination of diverse expertise such as human genetics, molecular biology, mathematics, statistics and information technology needed to perform studies of the human genome and disease.
BUSM is a major research institution, ranking 12th among US medical schools for sponsored research. There are over 600 funded research programs and more than 1,000 active clinical trials, providing an exceptional environment for students interested in basic science, clinical investigation, or public health and health services oriented research.
Affymetrix scientists invented the world's first high-density microarray in 1989 and began selling the first commercial microarray in 1994. Since then, Affymetrix GeneChip® technology has become the industry standard in molecular biology research. Affymetrix technology is used by the world's top pharmaceutical, diagnostic and biotechnology companies as well as leading academic, government and not-for-profit research institutes. More than 1,400 systems have been installed around the world and more than 7,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published using the technology. Affymetrix' patented photolithographic manufacturing process provides the most information capacity available today on an array, enabling researchers to use a whole-genome approach to analyzing the relationship between genetics and health. Affymetrix is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., with manufacturing facilities in Sacramento, Calif., and Bedford, Mass. The company maintains important sales and marketing operations in Europe and Asia, and has about 1,100 employees worldwide. For more information about Affymetrix, please visit the company's website at www.affymetrix.com.
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