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Stanford sequences the Iranian genome


When scientists started studying genomes, and then sequencing them, their work was hailed as revolutionary. But, they were mostly done in connection with Caucasian genes and some African and East Asian populations. One of the races no one studied was the Persian race. That is, until last year. Stanford researchers received a $250,000 grant from a Persian American foundation called PARSA to study the Iranian genome. The idea is to learn more about the history and varied cultures of the Iranian people, and to explore the field of personalized medicine.

Since the Iranian government refused to allow the study in Iran, the Stanford study examines the Iranian American population here. And they’re still recruiting. Roxana Daneshjou is lead researcher for the Iranian Genome Project at the Stanford School of Bioengineering.

ROXANA DANESHJOU: There are rare genetic variations that can be particular to different populations, that determine disease or drug response. I’ll give you an example. Asian populations require a 30 to 40 percent lower dose of a blood thinning drug called Warfarin. And it wasn’t understood what the reason was, so genetic sequencing was done in that population and it was found that a variant in the target of the drug that was particularly high frequency in that population, which was why many of them required a lower dose. So when the doctor prescribes a drug, let’s say it’s Warfarin, they click to make the prescription, there’s a pop up that says “this patient has this variant of the Warfarin target, give them X dose, instead of what the normal dose is.” And for this revolution to be successful, we need to have genetic information on all ethnic groups.

Listen to this entire interview above.

Click here to participate in the Iranian Genome Project.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.