Several recent articles in Minority Nurse have examined how the emerging field of health care genetics and genomics has begun to revolutionize the way researchers and clinicians are working to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes. Being able to determine that a patient is at a genetic risk for developing conditions such as cancer and heart disease, and understanding the factors that can cause the patient’s genes to “express” (trigger) the disease, can result in more effective prevention and treatment strategies targeted to that person’s individual genetic makeup.
One of the most exciting new research projects to be launched in this area is an international collaboration that will focus on identifying the genetic factors that cause people to develop diabetes—a disease that has become a deadly epidemic among America’s minority populations. Digital Gene Technologies, Inc. (DGT), based in La Jolla, Calif., has teamed up with the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) for a groundbreaking study designed to identify gene markers and targets associated with the destructive T lymphocyte imbalance that leads to type 1 diabetes.
Spokespersons for the project describe it as “a bold, genomics-based approach to understanding the molecular mechanisms that lead to diabetes.” The French research team, led by Dr. Jean Imbert of the Institute Paoli-Calmettes in Marseille, will use TOGA®, a pioneering gene expression evaluation technology developed by DGT, to examine human blood samples from diabetic and non-diabetic populations and search for the genes responsible for the onset of the T-cell imbalance that initiates diabetes.
Dr. Imbert believes the study, when completed, will help focus attention on potential new targets for controlling and preventing diabetes. “We expect our results to reveal novel molecular signatures that may help us better diagnose at-risk subjects and to lead us towards new strategies for preventive intervention,” he says.
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