Mexico has launched a race based genome project to determine if a genetic basis exists for its growing health crisis. The goal is to clean insights into genetic differences, believed to be unique to its population, which may play a key role in chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and hypertension.
Applied Biosystems (ABI), IBM Health care and Affymetrix with assist the government in sequencing, genotyping and data analysis. The Instituto Nacional de Medicina Genomica (National Genomic Medicine Institute of Mexico) or INMGEN will manage the resulting 'Mexican HapMap'.
According to Gerardo Jimenez, director of INMEGEN and the new collaboration, INMEGEN will begin by sampling individuals in six remote regions of Mexico to construct a consensus genetic map that fits the entire Mexican mestizo population, a mixture of Europeans and Indians. The first objective is to determine if every block of nucleic acid sequence will be alike for all the Mexican groups. "My own prediction, "says Jimenez" is that we are not going to find huge differences."
INMEGEN will release newly mined genomic data into the public domain as fast a technology allows, but Jimenez is quick to point out that the measure of the project's success is not the science, but rather the medicines that come out of it. The close economic and political ties between the two nations lend a degree of legitimacy and accountability to the project, and Jimenez, who is an experienced genomics researcher, is well aware of the social implications of genomics analysis.
INMEGEN's research will be subject to oversight as well as review by a panel comprising the country's leading academic bioethics. The genomics project will be managed according to US National Institutes of Health ethical standards. Despite this promising start, some warn that even seemingly airtight laws and scientists best intentions cannot ensure against abuses.
(Source: Nature Biotechnology)