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Researchers Find Genes Associated with Obesity, Hypertension and Metabolic Syndrome

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Affymetrix Inc. has announced that researchers from Boston University and Howard University will perform the genome-wide scan of an African American cohort searching for genes associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes and metabolic syndrome using the Affymetrix GeneChip® Human Mapping 500K Array Set.

Charles Rotimi, Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University and current president of the African Society of Human Genetics, and Michael Christman, Ph.D., chair of the Genetics and Genomics Department at Boston University, will lead the study.

The initial phase of the project will take a year and the team is hoping to secure additional funding to expand the study to include additional unique African cohorts.

Dr. Rotimi’s team has conducted a number of family-based cohort studies on African populations. His areas of focus have been diabetes, obesity, hypertension and translational research.

"African Americans tend to have a higher frequency of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome than European Americans," said Dr. Rotimi.

"Through this first study, we hope to determine the genes associated with these complex diseases and discover how they may interact with different environmental factors, so we can develop more effective treatments for all Americans and people around the world."

"The initial phase of the International HapMap Project has been a valuable resource for genetic studies and tells us that a very high SNP density is needed in studies of chromosomes of African ancestry," said Dr. Christman.

"The Affymetrix 500K Array includes many of the common SNPs that extend beyond the HapMap Project, enabling us to truly examine the genes associated with complex diseases affecting African Americans."

"We are very excited about working closely with Dr. Rotimi and his group at Howard on this project."

Dr. Christman recently led a team of international scientists that discovered the first common genetic variant predisposing to obesity.

The study, entitled "A Common Genetic Variant is Associated with Obesity," appeared in the April 14, 2006, issue of the journal Science

The group also performed the dense genome scan of the Framingham Heart Study cohort, which consists primarily of European Americans.

"We plan on expanding the Affymetrix control database to include populations from around the world to better support more focused projects like this African American cohort study," said Sean George, Ph.D., vice president, Academic Business Unit at Affymetrix.

"Dr. Christman’s team brings a strong understanding of obesity and other disorders to the project, and Dr. Rotimi’s team has considerable expertise in the genetic epidemiology of complex diseases in African Americans and other populations of the African Diaspora."

"This combination of researchers and Affymetrix 500K technology will help provide answers that had not been possible before."

The resulting data from the first genome-wide scan of an African American cohort will be included within the Affymetrix Control Program.

The program provides free, public access to control cohort data for whole-genome association studies using Affymetrix GeneChip genotyping arrays.