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Award-winning science reporting by Sally Lehrman with an emphasis on race relations, identity and gender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skin Deep: Explore the intersection of race and science

Some links to get you thinking:

Genetic testing mixup at 23andMe: A white woman finds out she's African
DNA diaspora for seven Jewish groups
The Race Cube and embracing ambiguity

When geneticist Craig Venter announced the first rough draft of the human genome, he underlined one key finding.  Sociologists had been right: Race was a social construct, not a natural set of divisions. Genetics had settled the case. Venter told the media, "Race has no scientific or genetic basis."

As genetics research has grown more sophisticated, however, the pairing of race with biology has come back into vogue. Medical research articles speculate about race-based differences in disease susceptibility, drug responses and appropriate medical treatment.  News stories warn African Americans that they should use a higher dose of asthma medications, Mexican Americans that they may be naturally prone to obesity, and Asian Americans that they have special risk for liver and lung cancer. BiDil, the first-ever race-specific medicine, is now on the market to treat heart failure in African Americans. Drug companies are contemplating race-specific clinical trials for cancer and conditions such as high cholesterol. Even a vitamin company now markets its offerings by "race".

Is there a biological basis to the commonly held notion of "race"?

In this project, I explore just what scientists are learning about race at a biological level, and what they still don't know. What are the insights being delivered by molecular biology? And what are the dangers of interpreting new data through old lenses of social hierarchy and difference?

As scientists learn more about the adaptive genome, exciting new ventures in public health are taking shape. Experts are studying the powerful effects of race in our daily lives, right down to our genes. The social structures of race can mold so much of our lives -- the places we play, the air we breathe, and the daily stresses we endure -- and eventually, take root in our very cells.

Do you think biology makes race? Or does race make biology? What questions arise for you?

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