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Dr. Regina Appiah-Opong, a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Clinical Pathology Department from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research  studies the potency of CYP-mediated drug-drug and herb-drug interactions of drugs and plant medicines used  to treat malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS ( among others) in the Ghanaian population. In order to access accurately the drug interaction potentials of these medicines, Dr. Appiah-Opong is focusing her research on CYP genes to identify the differences in SNPs between Caucasian and African ethnicities, particularly SNPs specific to Ghanaian people. To support her endeavors, BVGH connected Dr. Appiah-Opong with Dr. Susan Kraemer, a bioinformatics instructor at the University of Washington Bothell (UW Bothell)he two researchers agreed to provide Dr. Kraemer’s undergraduate students with real-life bioinformatics experience. These students are instructed to analyze publicly available CYP gene sequences. These sequences include the recent data generated by 1000 genomes project. Based on their analyses done so far, the students identified genetic differences in CYP genes between African and Caucasian populations. Students in the first cohort of the course found striking differences between particular alleles for CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 in the two populations.. Due to the encouraging results and availability of human genome sequence data from a recently published African genome variation project, Drs. Kramer and Appiah-Opong were granted access to DNA sequence information from the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research (APCDR). Using this data, in addition to the data from the 1000 Genomes Project, Dr Kraemer will lead another undergraduate class investigating the population-specific alleles. These analyses will improve our understanding of population variation of the CYP enzymes and will allow Dr. Appiah-Opong to clone Ghanaian-specific CYP vectors and conduct drug metabolism studies. Significant differences in drug metabolism between these enzymes and control CYPs would highlight the need for expanded clinical trials among different ethnicities.

The results of this collaboration may lay the groundwork for changing approaches to drug approval in Ghana and in other regions of the world.

Remarking on this collaboration, Dr. Appiah-Opong said: “The collaboration between the Institute and UW Bothell fostered by our partner, BVGH/WIPO Research, has been a great experience so far. The commitment and enthusiasm of each contributor, including students, towards this important biomedical research is remarkable. I am confident that the effort will culminate in more effective therapies not only for Ghanaians or Africans, but also various populations.”

The Institute therefore congratulates Dr. Regina Appiah-Opong for this remarkable achievement.

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