Mission and Vision
The mission of the Human Genetics Center is to discover how genomic variation impacts the health of individuals, families, and populations and to apply this information to improve public health and clinical care outcomes. We achieve our mission through a commitment to teaching, service, and research. Our research focus is on the human genomic response to various contexts, such as genetic background, environment, or even the genomes of commensal or infectious organisms. Critical to our mission is the ability to understand the behavior of genes in pedigrees and populations.
The Human Genetics Center integrates and makes accessible advanced genetics research to the public health disciplines of epidemiology, statistics, informatics, infectious diseases, and public policy. We continue to expand our base of research through interdisciplinary collaboration with research groups across Texas and around the world. Our vision is to leave no genetic stone unturned in order to improve and sustain the health of all individuals.
- Train genetic investigators in molecular and cellular biology and the management, use, and analysis of familial and population-oriented data.
- Provide educational and research opportunities for doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows through employment on externally derived research funds.
- Understand the contributions of genetic factors to those common diseases that account for most of the mortality in the public health context.
- Understand the forces that influence the patterns of naturally occurring variation in the human genome, and how those patterns can be exploited to understand human disease.
- Continue to expand our base of research through closer interdisciplinary collaboration with other research groups in the Texas Medical Center, in particular, those located in The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and McGovern Medical School.
- Seek external support to maintain state-of-the-art laboratory and computing equipment which is essential to our research.
A legacy of collaboration
The Human Genetics Center was established within the School of Public Health on Sept. 1, 1994. The center represents the consolidation of two long-standing research centers that were located in The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, now named MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School. The research centers consisted of the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics, founded by Dr. William J. Schull in 1972, and the Medical Genetics Center led by Dr. Margery W. Shaw in 1970. The Human Genetics Center has been designated by the World Health Organization as a collaborating center for the investigation of the genetics of common disease.
At present, funded research projects focus on common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and eye disorders. All have been shown to have a strong genetic component, but the number of genes involved, their locations, risk-producing mutations and interactions are yet to be resolved.
Our research interests
Center faculty are actively involved in research ranging from scanning the human genome for diabetes and hypertension genes to characterizing specific mutations for eye disorders to establishing the evolutionary dynamics of genetic variation in disease genes. The center is also involved in the assessment of the forensic utility of DNA testing, the establishment of a national DNA testing database for use in research, and the conduct of a laboratory for the molecular diagnosis of inherited eye diseases (in association with the Department of Ophthalmology at McGovern Medical School),. In addition to national and international efforts, the center has maintained a field station in Rio Grande City, Texas since 1981 to facilitate investigation of common disease problems among the Mexican-American population of Texas.
Funding of our research comes from external sources including the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, the National Institute of Justice, and other philanthropic support.
Areas of expertise
- Chronic diseases in Mexican-Americans
- Computational biology
- Computational genomics
- DNA variation among and within populations and how these patterns evolved
- Genes and mutations causing retinal diseases
- Genetic epidemiology
- Genetics of cardiovascular disease
- Genome variation
- Genome-wide linkage and association analyses
- Genotyping and DNA sequencing
- Impact of gene variation on individual, family and population health
- Locating and characterizing genes underlying common chronic diseases
- Molecular evolution
- Population genetics theory
- Quantitative genetics
- Retinal pathophysiology
- Statistical and computational methods in human disease
- Statistical methods for DNA sequence analyses
Current areas of focus
- Understanding the genetic basis of common and complex diseases including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, birth defects, and retinal degeneration.
- Mapping the influence of genetics across the course of life from conception to old age.
- Elucidating gene-gene and gene-environment interaction.
- Determining the interplay/susceptibility between our genome and those organisms that we “host” temporarily or across the life span.
- Unraveling the forces that influence the patterns of naturally occurring variation in the human genome.
- Translation of genetic findings into prevention, treatment and precision health.
- Development and application of advanced computational tools for genetic analysis, including those hosted in a cloud-based computing environment.
Genomics and Bioinformatics certificate
Certificates for degree-seeking and non-degree seeking students
Expand your knowledge by learning how to identify, analyze and integrate genomic and high-dimensional multi-omic data into population and personalized health with a Genomics and Bioinformatics Certificate from UTHealth School of Public Health.
Enhance your education with a graduate certificate in genomics and bioinformatics. The certificate is intended for professionals in academic, clinical and research settings who are now or soon to be faced with complex genomic and multi-omic data.
Students, clinicians, and researchers enrolled in the program will be equipped with a unique set of skills needed to compete and lead in genomic sciences. These skills, obtained through a structured set of courses, will assist students in understanding the advances in human genomics and bioinformatics so that they may apply this knowledge to improve public health and prevent disease.
Online classes are available. For more information, please contact JR Bright, academic and admissions advisor, at JR.F.Bright@uth.tmc.edu.
Projects and subgroups
Human Genetics Center Laboratory
The Human Genetics Center Laboratory utilizes the latest genomic technology to understand the etiology of many common chronic diseases in human populations. Using contemporary scientific methods to facilitate the progress of future genomic research, the laboratory examines the elucidation of the interactions between genes and the environment and translates these findings into precision medicine initiatives to help guide decisions regarding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.
The laboratory offers state-of-the-art equipment to carry out current methodologies in molecular genetics research and expertise in many methods for genotyping and epityping spanning low to high throughput capacities. All can be tailored to meet your individual project goals. DNA and RNA extraction, aliquoting and management of hundreds of thousands of samples from several large population-based projects are routinely performed.
For more information on the HGC Laboratory and an overview of services offered, please visit the laboratory’s website here.
Community Outreach Biorepository
A biorepository is a facility that stores biological materials (biospecimens) for future research use. UT Physicians and researchers are developing a biorepository in collaboration with the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery and dare to C.A.R.E., to screen patients for cardiovascular disease. Saliva is stored and used to collect genetic information.
To participate in the collection of your biospecimens and health information, we will:
- Answer your questions about the biorepository
- Ask you to sign an informed consent form to participate
- Collect 1/2 teaspoon of saliva
- Label your biospecimens with a barcode that does not contain your personal information (a process called de-identification)
To protect your confidentiality, we will:
- Share de-identified biospecimens and data that do not link back to you with researchers inside and outside of UTHealth (upon approval from an internal review board that protects the rights of human subjects)
- Share de-identified data in public national databases when required
- Protect your information in accordance with federal laws that make it illegal to use your genetic information to discriminate against you for health insurance coverage and employment (GINA): http://www.ginahelp.org/
You are in control of what happens to your biospecimens and may opt-out of participating in the biorepository at any time.
Our hope is that your contribution to the biorepository will allow researchers to discover genetic risk factors that will allow for earlier risk detection of vascular disease, thereby improving the quality of life and treatment of individuals. Donating to the biorepository is optional.
For more information, please contact the Human Genetics Center Lab at HGC_Lab@uth.tmc.edu.
Human Genetics Center
P.O. Box 20186
Houston, Texas 77225