Roots into the Future: A New 23andMe Research Initiative For African Americans


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A recent article in Wired Magazine highlighted how the genome revolution has been skipping most people in the world: 96% of participants in recent genomic studies trace most of their ancestry to Europe. Why? Statistical analysis is simpler in groups tracing ancestry to just one continental region so fewer individuals are needed to make discoveries. Although African Americans typically trace about 20% of their ancestry to Europe, studies to verify previous findings in this population have not been done for many diseases. Our understanding of how DNA influences disease risk in people with mostly non-European ancestry has a lot of catching up to do.

23andMe hopes to bridge this growing divide through Roots into the Future, a research initiative addressing the needs of the African American community. Our partners in the research initiative include Dr. Henry Louis Gates and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, as well as advisors from academia, industry and the 23andMe community. Our goal is to enroll 10,000 participants who self-identify as African American, Black, or African in order to rapidly accelerate genetic research in the African American community.

Roots into the Future will help determine how genetic factors contribute to the development of disease in this population. Which genetic associations identified in Europeans also apply to African Americans? Can we discover new genetic markers linked to conditions of particular relevance to the African American community, such as diabetes, prostate cancer, and heart disease?

The initiative aligns with 23andMe’s broader mission of empowering individuals to understand their own genetic data. And 23andMe’s unique web-based research platform can accelerate critical research in this community.

Project participants will receive free access to their personal genetic data used for the research, as well as health and ancestry interpretations of the data. As the project progresses, participants can expect to see additional relevant reports and features.

Roots into the Future will launch at the end of July at the annual conference of the National Urban League in Boston. To learn more about the project, or to sign up to be notified when registration becomes more broadly available, go to www.23andme.com/roots.






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  • Lisa

    Wow! I am very excited to see this project! Thanks 23andme!

  • http://sites.google.com/site/reducinghealthdisparities/ Charley Settles

    How might I get one of your free DNA testing kits for African Americans?

    Thanks,

  • http://twitter.com/rianalynn Riana Lynn

    this is amazing, i would like to spread the word

  • Tamara

    How do I obtain a free DNA kit for African American? I live in Halifax, N.C.

  • Verneisha Morrow

    Where can I get one of the free DNA testing kits for African Americans???

  • http://tpft.club.officelive.com chris parham

    I am very interested in this project and will urge our 635 plus members on the parham family tree to participate. We are on fb. I’m from Boston and will register ASAP!

  • Ashley

    Can Afro-Caribbean people also participate in this study?

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Ashley,

      We encourage anyone who identifies with having African American, Black, or African ancestry to participate, so yes! Registration is currently limited but you can sign up to be notified when registration opens more widely by going to http://www.23andme.com/roots.

  • http://www.serv.io/edit/i/fk7dtf servioedit

    this project seems very holpeful

  • http://23andme.com Shwu

    All those interested in participating in this initiative can sign up to be notified when registration opens more widely! Just go to http://www.23andme.com/roots.

  • Ajili

    This is a great for African Americans. This initiative helps us to understand our health and our lives. Knowning why we as African Americans have certain health problems.

  • Faye D. bowen

    would like to become a member or participant in your program. please advise.

    Aisha/ Faye D. Bowen

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Aisha/Faye,

      Simply enter your email address at http://www.23andme.com/roots and you’ll be contacted on how to join!

  • Isaiah Jackson

    Has FGWUDB expired? It comes up as an Invalid Discout code this evening.

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Isaiah,

      Codes given to current 23andMe members to give out are valid for only one use, so it is likely that someone else has already used that particular code. But, you can still sign up – just enter your email to be notified about registration at http://www.23andme.com/roots.

  • Angela Miles

    I am interested in receiving a DNA kit for African Americans to research their heritage. I tried ancestry. Com however they just traced my roots back to my great grandfather being a twelve year old slave.

    Hope your project team can help me.

    Thank you, Angela Miles

  • Luisa

    My data is already in 23andMe. Will it count toward this study or will I have to “spit” again? LOL. I purchased kits for my parents too. Should I order three kits from the Roots study?

    Great work. I’ve passed the word to friends on Facebook several times. Looking forward to the results.

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Luisa,

      Thanks so much for your support! If you and your parents are already members of 23andMe, simply send an email to roots-help@23andme.com with your account email address and the name of the profiles or people in your account that you’d like to have join the Roots into the Future initiative. If your parents have their own accounts, they should do the same. For any questions about the initiative or how to participate, please also contact roots-help@23andme.com.

  • Pat

    I would love to get a kit for my father who is 93 years old. I have entered my email address for myself but how can I get a kit for him?

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your support! By entering your email address, you should receive details soon about registration opportunities for this initiative. You can use this information to register yourself as well as your relatives who identify as African American, Black, or African! If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at roots-help@23andme.com

  • http://23andme Raquel Tomlinson

    I am interested in becoming a participant in the program and would like to know if it is open to African Canadian residents.

    Thank You

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Raquel,

      Yes, this initiative is open to you if you identify as African or Black (not just African American). Please sign up to be notified of registration opportunities at http://www.23andme.com/roots!

  • Mahoghani

    Wow, I can’t wait! It’s also very good that we will be helping understand health issues amongst our group!
    Is there a particular date when the program will become available?

  • Sasha Mitchell

    I encouraged my cousin to use the coupon code offered to Root readers and it was returned as “invalid code” despite saying it was available through Dec 31, 2011.

    I noticed that many other root readers are also complaining that the coupon does not work. Can you please make an update to the story if it is no longer available? Thanks!

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Sasha and Mahoghani,

      Thank you for your interest in the Roots into the Future research project. Because of the enthusiastic response to the article in TheRoot.com, enrollment through that channel is now complete. There will, however, be other opportunities to participate in Roots into the Future. If you have not done so already, please sign up at http://www.23andme.com/roots to be notified regarding future opportunities. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience as we enroll in stages to ensure timely processing!

  • http://www.taneya-kalonji.com/genblog Taneya

    I am interested in knowing if 23andMe will share specific plans on what is being done when it comes to analysis of our samples? I have been blogging about my and my family’s results, but have seen very little from 23andMe publicly with regard to what is being learned (or planned for investigation). I would be very interested in seeing more about it. Please do share with us. Thanks!

  • http://lettrl@hotmail.com robert Lett

    My name is Robert Lett. I am very excited about participating in this study. Our family listed among the early free families of Maryland also links with the Banneker family as Jemima Banneker (sister of Benjamin Banneker) married Samuel Delaney Lett. Their descendents began moving to Ohio in 1800.

    The family became inter-linked with the Caliman, Guy, Tate, Green, Stevens, Norman and Myers family in the early 1800′s and in the 1900′s the extremities of these families were still intermarrying ( Strong Clanish – Tribal Characteristics and epidemiology traits are of value).

    More information upon request .

    Lettrl@hotmail.com

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your interest and support! If you have not already registered, please sign up to be notified of registration opportunities here: http://www.23andme.com/roots/.

  • Carol Wood

    My African American grandaughter and her mother have clear genetic markers for Waardenburg Syndrome. They live in Costa Rica with clear ancestry from Jamaica

    Yes there is a computer and ability to provide a saliva sample / and photos

    I’d like to provide the family with more information on how to register for you data collecting project.

  • Chris

    Hi, I saw Dr Gates interview and am very interested in being included (as well as my parents) included in the next African American DNA project.

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