New insights on genes and diseases

A person who is genetically at increased risk for developing the eating disorder anorexia appears to also have a slightly increased genetic risk for schizophrenia, but a slightly decreased genetic risk for obesity, according to a new genetic study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and colleagues. A related study found that each of these diseases, as well as other traits such as propensity to smoke and the age when a girl starts menstruating, are specifically driven by gene regulation in the brain.

The two studies were conducted by Harvard Chan School and Broad researchers and published online September 28, 2015, in Nature Genetics.

The studies used new statistical methods to measure how human diseases and traits are driven by gene regulation in specific tissues, as well as the genetic connection between distinct traits.

“It is now clear that genetic component of most common diseases is distributed across a large number of genes in the genome, and that the regulation of these genes — how much of the gene product is produced — in specific tissues is often the key factor,” said co-author Alkes Price, associate professor of statistical genetics in the Department of Epidemiology and Department of Biostatistics, at Harvard Chan School and associate member of the Broad Institute’s Program in Medical and Population Genetics.

Read the abstracts:

Partitioning heritability by functional category using GWAS summary statistics

An atlas of genetic correlations across human diseases and traits

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