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UTHSC, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Have One of the Nation’s Most Diverse Biorepositories


Memphis, a city where 64% of the population is Black, now has one of the largest genetic databases of people with African ancestry in the United States.

This winter, researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, in collaboration with the Regeneron Genetics Center, sequenced the DNA of nearly 10,000 children whose families agreed to participate and who have had blood drawn at Le Bonheur since 2015. More than 44% of the participants are of African ancestry.

“This repository, one of the largest databases in the United States to contain the genetic information of Black Americans linked to their de-identified electronic medical data, is a powerful tool,” said Robert Davis, MD, MPH, director of the UTHSC Center in Biomedical Informatics and the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair in Biomedical Informatics.

“It will enable us to study unmet medical needs for conditions like epilepsy, asthma or development delay. By looking at these conditions in people representing a wide variety of ancestries that better reflect populations from around the world, we can better address the diversity of health disparities. By focusing on how specific genetic variations in DNA affect risk for disease, we can potentially devise better treatments for individuals who have those variations.”

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