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Purple test tubes in rack

The DNA testing company Color Genomics says that early next year it will offer customers a new type of gene analysis that could tell them if they are at risk of a heart attack.

Here’s the problem, though: it only works in white people.

The new type of DNA analysis, called a polygenic risk score, can predict people’s risk for a variety of serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and clogged arteries. It’s a big enough deal to be on our list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies this year.

But because the algorithms were developed by using large databases of health and DNA data mostly from people with of recent European ancestry, the tests aren’t as accurate in other groups, like black Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

For companies like Color, based near San Francisco, that poses a dilemma.

“To be only able to offer a product to one part of population is inequitable and should be unacceptable to the field,” says Alicia Zhou, head of research at the company. On the other hand, the tests do work in some people; they could... see more