Navajo Nation may undo genetic research ban

The Navajo Nation is looking to overturn their ban on genetic research. This kind of research has been banned since 2002, but some say it could provide important knowledge for the Navajo Nation.

“With this knowledge, there is hope that scientists and researchers can discover new treatments and possibly even cures to cancer, diabetes, Lyme disease and more,” said Antonio Ramirez, the Senior Public Information Officer for the Navajo Nation.

Genetic research was banned in 2002 because of concerns about the integrity and ethics of the researchers.

A year later, researchers at University of Arizona and Arizona State University wrongfully used the DNA of the Havasupai Tribe to research inbreeding and schizophrenia when they were only authorized to do diabetes research, which negatively impacted Navajo attitude towards genetic research.

Presently, the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board approves all research proposals that would take place on the Navajo Nation. Because of the ban, genetic research proposals are never considered.

As for the future of genetic testing on the Navajo Nation, Ramirez says that no decisions have been made yet.

“The Navajo Department of Health is taking the lead on the policy development,” said Ramirez. “To guide their efforts they conducted four public hearings on the Navajo Nation last month. “

The future undoubtedly holds more hearings and discussions of the issue, but there is a possibility the ban will be lifted.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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