Jonathan Witonsky, MD

Jonathan Witonsky, MD

The Regents of the University of California, San Francisco

Research Project:
Disentangling the Social and Genetic Determinants of Genetic Ancestry Differences in Lung Function

Grant Awarded:

  • Catalyst Award

Research Topics:

  • clinical research
  • epidemiology
  • social behavioral research

Research Diseases:

  • asthma
  • COPD
  • interstitial lung disease
  • lung cancer
  • occupational lung disease
  • pulmonary fibrosis

Funded by the Jeanette Casano Catalyst Award

Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are used to evaluate patients' respiratory health and diagnose lung diseases. PFTs measure lung volumes and airflow rates, and these measurements are compared to race/ethnicity-based reference values to determine if they are normal. Race/ethnicity-based reference values, however, are biased because they do not account for important social and genetic factors that affect lung function. As a result, race/ethnicity-based references perpetuate lung disease disparities. Lung function references that use patients' genetic data (genetic ancestry) instead of their race/ethnicity  are far more precise. There is a risk, though, that genetic ancestry-informed methods also overshadow social determinants of lung function. We will determine whether genetic ancestry-informed lung function references overcome the biases of race/ethnicity-based approaches.

Page last updated: October 16, 2023

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