Cultural, social experiences may be reflected in epigenetic marks

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A UC San Francisco-led study has identified signatures of ethnicity in the genome that appear to reflect an ethnic group’s shared culture and environment, rather than their common genetic ancestry.

The researchers identified several hundred differences in methylation associated with either Mexican or Puerto Rican ethnicity, but discovered that only three-quarters of the epigenetic difference between the two ethnic subgroups could be accounted for by differences in the children’s genetic ancestry. The rest of the epigenetic differences, the authors suggest, may reflect a biological stamp made by the different experiences, practices, and environmental exposures distinct to the two ethnic subgroups.

The discovery could help scientists understand how social, cultural, and environmental factors interact with genetics to create differences in health outcomes between different ethnic populations, the authors say, and provides a counterpoint to long-standing efforts in the biomedical research community to replace imprecise racial and ethnic categorization with genetic tests to determine ancestry.

Scientists and clinicians have increasingly tried to move away from simplistic racial and ethnic categories in disease research…

But the new data… suggests that abandoning the idea of race and ethnicity altogether could sacrifice a lot of valuable information about the drivers of differences in health and disease between different communities.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Cultural Differences May Be Reflected in DNA, Study Shows