European and Polynesian gene pools are different and should be treated differently when matching tissues for transplants or prescribing medicines, a Victoria University researcher says.
A 30-year study co-authored by molecular geneticist Dr Geoff Chambers has revealed that the differences could have significant medical consequences.
Dr Chambers says the research into tissue typing and blood group analysis showed that Maori and Pasifika are more likely to find donors from within their own ancestral background.
"This also concerns people of first-generation mixed ethnicity - those who have one European genome and one Maori or Pasifika genome," he said.
"The only people who are likely to be good prospects for tissue donors for them are people who share a similar genetic make-up."
Dr Chambers said the more blended New Zealand's ethnicities became, the better the chance of finding a match in the country, but the poorer the chance of finding an overseas donor.
The study, co-authored by Dr Hisham Edinur from the University of Science in Malaysia and Dr Paul Dunn from University Hospitals of Leicester in Britain, has been published in the New Zealand Science Review.
Dr Chambers said the research had implications for the public health system and transplant success.
He also said that, because of the genetic commonality, medical genetic studies done in Southeast Asian populations were likely to be of interest and concern to Maori or Pasifika.
"They're part of a very big whanau and it is an area where we could be looking for further insights into health and medications."