Neurogenomics in Africa: Perspectives, progress, possibilities and priorities

J Neurol Sci. 2016 Jul 15:366:213-223. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2016.05.006. Epub 2016 May 6.


The understanding of the genetic basis of neurological disorders has grown rapidly in the last two decades. Despite the genomic heterogeneity within African populations, large-scale candidate gene or linkage and exome studies are lacking. However, current knowledge on neurogenetics in African populations is limited and geographically very uneven. Isolated reports indicate the existence of autosomal dominant or recessive conditions incorporating cerebrovascular, movement, neuromuscular, seizure and motor neuron disorders in Africans. In addition, few African families with neurodegenerative disorders associated with dementia have been characterized in North, West and South Africa. The current insurgency in genomic research triggered by among others the Human Health and Heredity (H3) Africa Initiative indicates that there are unique opportunities to advance our knowledge and understanding of the influence of genomic variation on the pattern, presentations and prognosis of neurological disorders in Africa. These have enormous potential to unmask novel genes and molecular pathways germane to the neurobiology of brain disorders. It would facilitate the development of novel diagnostics, preventative and targeted treatments in the new paradigm of precision medicine. Nevertheless, it is crucial to strike a balance between effective traditional public health strategies and personalized genome based care. The translational barriers can be overcome through robust stakeholder engagement and sustainable multilevel, multigenerational and multidisciplinary capacity building and infrastructural development for genomic medicine in Africa.

Keywords: Africa; Burden of disease; Capacity building; Genetics; Genomics; Neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Black People / genetics*
  • Capacity Building
  • Genomics / methods
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / ethnology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy