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June 16th

New concerns raised over value of genome-wide disease studies

  • Science
  • Genetics/Genomics

Nature – Compare the genomes of enough people with and without a disease, and genetic variants linked to the malady should pop out. So runs the philosophy behind genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which researchers have used for over a decade to find genetic ties to diseases such as schizophrenia and rheumatoid arthritis. But a provocative analysis now calls the future of that strategy into question — and raises doubts about whether funders should pour more money into these experiments.

GWAS are fast expanding to encompass hundreds of thousands — even millions — of patients (see 'The genome-wide tide'). But biologists are likely to find that larger studies turn up more and more genetic variants — or 'hits' — that have minuscule influences on disease, says Jonathan Pritchard, a geneticist at Stanford University in California. It seems likely, he argues, that common illnesses could be linked by GWAS to hundreds of thousands of DNA variants: potentially, to every single DNA region that happens to be active in a tissue involved in a disease.

Read more at Nature.

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