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Genetic research in Indigenous health: significant progress, substantial challenges

Med J Aust 2012; 197 (1): 19-20. || doi: 10.5694/mja12.10531

Genomics is a powerful research tool, but it must be handled with care

Of all the measurements and biological samples used in health research, it is the extraction and analysis of genetic material that has caused the most controversy in indigenous health research across the globe. No other kind of research has a specific inter- national non-governmental organisation dedicated to opposing it — the Indigenous People’s Council on Biocolonialism. This United States-based organisation was founded in 1999 in the wake of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP). That project was a worldwide effort to collect DNA samples from indigenous populations for population genetic research that aimed to understand the ancient migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa beginning 100 000 years ago, and populating the rest of the world.

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  • Emma E Kowal

  • School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.

Correspondence: e.kowal@unimelb.edu.au

Acknowledgements: 

My research is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Training Fellowship (No. 454813). The Lowitja Institute National Roundtables on Genetic Research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were supported by the Lowitja Institute and facilitated by Professor Ian Anderson and Associate Professor Ted Wilkes.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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