Massive analysis of genetic data reveals genes behind various traits, diseases

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To understand the genetic underpinnings of human phenotypes, scientists can scan thousands of genomes to identify common variants among people with particular traits, an approach known as genome-wide association studies (GWAS). In a new study published in Nature Genetics, researchers combined data from more than 16 GWAS as well as from 23andMe’s database to discover novel gene-trait associations. But the researchers also added an extra layer of analysis, pooling 42 seemingly different traits—including diseases—to uncover phenotypes that may be causally linked.

“Our idea was to try to gather up all the traits that have been studied in large genetic studies and see if there is shared biology between these different traits that seem unrelated,” study coauthor Joseph Pickrell of the New York Genome Center in New York City told The Scientist.

The study revealed 341 loci associated with multiple traits. Some were linked to later onset of menarche in girls, a later age of voice drop in boys, lower body mass index, and a reduced risk of male-pattern baldness. “Reproductive timing is the kind of thing that should evolve with changes in our environment, and it’s exciting to see that these reproductive timing traits are genetically correlated across the sexes,” Rockman said.

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Read full, original post: Genetic Connections Among Human Traits

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