Washington, Feb 29 : Variations in gene expression levels among various ethnic groups may influence their response to drugs and infections, says a new study.
The researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Centre and the Expression Research Laboratory at Affymetrix Inc. of Santa Clara studied the differences in gene expression between Europeans and Africans and found significant differences in genes involved in producing antibodies to potential intruders.
They studied 180 healthy individuals including 60 nuclear families, with mother, father and child; thirty Caucasians families from Utah and 30 were Yorubans from Ibadan, Nigeria.
"Our primary interest is the genes that regulate how people respond to medicines, such as cancer chemotherapy," said Eileen Dolan, senior author and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago
"We want to understand why different populations experience different degrees of toxicity when taking certain drugs and learn how to predict who might be most at risk for drug side effects," she added.
During the study, the researchers found significant differences in expression levels among genes involved in fundamental cellular processes.
Prior studies have shown that African Americans may be more vulnerable to infection by certain bacteria than Caucasians.
"Population differences in gene expression have only recently begun to be investigated," said Dolan.
"We believe they play a significant role in susceptibility to disease and in regulating drug response. Our current research focuses on how these genetic and expression differences play a role in sensitivity to adverse effects associated with chemotherapy," she added.
The study will appear in print issue of American Journal of Human Genetics.