Denison University Hosts Genetic Researcher
Posted: March 21, 2005
Denison University welcomes Rick Kittles, an associate professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University's Medical Center, for a convocation at 7:30 p.m. on Monday (March 28) in Slayter Auditorium. He will give a lecture titled "'Race,' Genetic Ancestry and Disease." The lecture is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Academic Lecture Fund, the department of biology and the department of philosophy.
The post-human genome sequencing era has presented several daunting challenges for biomedical research. One such challenge has been to quantify the level of sequence variation that occurs within and between human populations. For instance, how many variations are there that create what we call "race"? This has serious implications for the enigma called "race," ancestry, group definition and membership.
"I do not believe there are "races," says Kittles. "We don't know all the variation that exists in the world and, depending on the study, some just use one segment of DNA to define race while others are using thousands. The bottom line is that we are just coming to grips with DNA variation and how it can be used to define people."
Another challenge has been the attempt to understand how DNA sequence variation contributes to variation in susceptibility to common complex diseases. How these challenges are met will have an impact on our ability to determine if health disparities, such as prostate cancer, are due to biological differences.
Kittles will discuss genetic variation among African Americans and its implications for "race" and prostate cancer incidence and mortality. The paucity of biomedical research in populations such as African Americans has fueled the limited understanding of risk factors driving prostate cancer and other health disparities.
Kittles earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1989 and a doctorate in biological sciences from George Washington University in 1998. Kittles then went to Howard University where he helped establish the National Human Genome Center. As co-director of molecular genetics at Howard University, he directed large-scale, high throughput genotyping and DNA sequencing projects. He also coordinated a national cooperative network to study the genetics of hereditary prostate cancer in the African American community. He also co-founded African Ancestry, Inc., a private company that provides DNA testing services for determining shared African genetic ancestry to individuals and genealogists around the world.
An appreciation of genetic variation and how it is partitioned across human populations is an underlying aspect of all of Kittles' research. His work on tracing the genetic ancestry of African Americans has brought to focus many issues, new and old, which relate to race, ancestry, identity and group membership. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on prostate cancer in the African American population and on race and health disparities.
CALENDAR LISTING: Denison University, Granville -- Denison University welcomes Rick Kittles for a convocation titled "'Race,' Genetic Ancestry and Disease" at 7:30 p.m. on Monday (March 28) in Slayter Auditorium. The convocation is free and open to the public. Contact: (740) 587-6261 to confirm information.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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