Ancestral Genomics conference

UNT Transdisciplinary Conference on Ancestral Genomics 2020

Denton, United States
16 - 17 April 2020
13 days until the conference begins

Important Dates

Abstract Submission Deadline
14th January 2020
Abstract Acceptance Notification
30th January 2020

About Ancestral Genomics conference

The UNT Transdisciplinary Conference on Ancestral Genomics will conduct panel discussions, focused on initiatives that move us beyond the current one-size-fits-all medical paradigm, which disadvantages underrepresented populations. Workshops led by National Institutes of Health scientists will also support new collaborations. So what is “ancestral genomics”? Medical researchers sometimes lack ready access to certain vital clues relating to the unique ecological environments to which a “genetic niche population” is genomically adapted. The potential for identifying disease-causative Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in non-Europeans is therefore reduced. This working Conference intends to respond to such needs.


Population genetics, Oncology clinical genomics and computational biology, Medical anthropology, Ethnopharamocology, Ethnic health disparities, Ethnic oncology, African genomics, African-american genomics, Nutrition in an ethnically diverse society

Call for Papers

The Challenge:

This will be a working conference that while limited in scope, (African-Americans of slave descent) will nevertheless raise vital questions that will help shape the future of genomics research for underrepresented populations.  A crisis exists in the Genomics and Precision Medicine field generated by new but counterintuitive discoveries regarding the nature of human genetic diversity.  How is it possible that Kenyans and Tanzanians would have more genetic diversity compared to each other than either would when contrasted to the average European?  The answer, of course, is that the Africans carry the ancestral genome, which contains nearly twice as many genetic variants as those populations whose ancestors migrated out of Africa.  Non-Africans, on the other hand, represent subsets of the human genetic variant pool nested in the larger ancestral genome.  But what do these new insights have to do with health and medicine?  At the present time approximately 81% of the European genome has been studied, but only 3% of the African genome. Thus identifying disease-triggering variants in underrepresented populations is more difficult since the same disease symptoms may be expressed with different gene variants in different genetic populations.    

The Topics:

If your original research addresses any of the questions below, please submit a 300 word abstract for our peer-review Evaluation Committee's consideration.  Our abstract selection criteria will be based on the quality, originality, and scientific or other disciplinary credibility that your research contributes to any one of these or related topics:  Is the most cost effective and medically beneficial fix to diversifying the reference genome an approach that regularly adds patches of non-European populations to it?  Or, if the goal is reducing the number of genetic variants in non-Europeans that are tagged “rare” or VUS (Variants of Unknown Significance) should more emphasis be placed on identifying discrete ancestral genomes, which recognize the genomic adaptations of diverse ancestral populations to their unique environmental niches? How should racial classifications be used in genomic medicine?   African-Americans of slave origins possess an admixture profile that is on average 75%  interior-Niger-Kordofanian West African DNA, 24% Northern European DNA and 1% Native American DNA.  They do not carry the same genomic profile as Nigerian-Americans, who are of predominantly coastal-Niger-Kordanian ancestry.  And yet, they are both categorized as belonging to the same race.  Given the growing accuracy of  DNA testing, can or should ancestry be used in place of racial categories?  How should genomic medicine grapple with the fact that different sets of genetic variants or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs)  trigger what appear to be the same traits or diseases in different genetic populations?  (Europeans share one trigger for lactase non-persistence, Tanzanians have a different one, and their Kenyan neighbors have another one altogether). What role should the African genome play in medical research since it carries the full range of human genetic variation and thus contains within it the possibility of disease breakthroughs that might benefit the entire human species?  (Were HeLa cells unique in their immortality or a harbinger of other discoveries yet to be made in the unexplored African ancestral genome?)     Does the One-Size-Fits-All or colorblind approach to medical research silently racialize Europeans by universalizing their genomes and applying it to all human populations?  Are African-Americans more susceptible to TRPV6-expressing cancers ((Metastatic Prostate Cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, Ovarian Cancer) than other U.S. demographics?  If so is the ancestral TRPV6a calcium ion channel variant the culprit? Is the TRPV6a variant more calcium absorbent than the derived (European) TRPV6b variant? If so, might overexposure to free calcium ions trigger a higher susceptibility to TRPV6-expressing cancers in populations who carry the ancestral TRPV6a variant? Do all humans have the same dietary calcium needs?  The Niger-Kordofanian West Africans consume 200-300 mg/calcium/day but have minimal rates of osteoporosis.  Americans of Northern European origin consume 1000-1200 mg/calcium/day, but are at high risk of fragile bone diseases.  Could high calcium consumption trigger potential malignancies or preeclampsia in childbirth for African-Americans and other populations who have strong bones despite a lower than USDA-required calcium intake?  Should U.S. calcium intake be stratified by ancestry rather than based on a one-size-fits-all model?  In order to avoid misdiagnosing African-Americans with kidney disease, U.S. laboratories have added a correction factor to this genetic population’s eGFR score. Should other biological values be stratified by ancestry in order to provide a more accurate picture of health in a particular population?  Do all humans have the same dietary sodium needs?  The Niger-Kordofanian ancestors of African-Americans inhabit the sodium-deficient interior of West Africa.  They are genetically adapted to consuming 200-300 mg/day/sodium, levels that would be too low even to meet the survival needs of coastal West Africans.  Does transition from a low-sodium ancestral diet to the current 3400 mg/sodium/day intake trigger salt-sensitive hypertension and kidney failure in African-Americans? Should U.S. sodium intake be stratified by ancestry rather than based on a one-size-fits-all model. What advances are being made in ethnopharmacology that may be of special benefit to African-Americans?

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