A New PAGE in the Genetics of Disease
“Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology” (PAGE) is a four-year project promoting research into how genes and diseases are associated. PAGE is investigating how specific genetic variants act to influence the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer and other common diseases. It is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health, parts of the National Institutes of Health.
“The Human Genome Project set the stage for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that have revealed more than 300 novel genetic variants that contribute to the onset of common diseases,” said Matise, an associate professor of genetics who heads the project coordinating center based at Rutgers. “Now we must use some large populations for which we have data to ‘connect the dots’ between the genetics and the incidence of diseases.”
Matise’s coordinating center will receive $4.3 million in funding while Vanderbilt University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Hawaii and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will each receive approximately $7 million in support of several large-scale, long-term studies. Study subjects will include members of several different ethnic populations.
“Instead of looking at one disease across the whole genome in a few thousand ancestrally uniform people, we are looking at known genetic ‘bad actors’ in tens of thousands of ancestrally diverse people and multiple diseases,” said Buyske, a geneticist and statistician at Rutgers.
The new research will use these large population collections to investigate how genetic variants initially identified through GWAS research relate to an individual’s biological and physical characteristics, such as weight, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels or bone density. Scientists will also examine how nongenetic factors, such as diet, medications and smoking may interact with genetic factors or each other to influence health outcomes.
Matise’s coordinating center team includes statistical geneticists, molecular geneticists, genetic epidemiologists, computer and information scientists, and biostatisticians. The center will employ innovative computer and information science techniques to retrieve and synthesize the volume of study results. It will also serve as a data clearinghouse for disseminating results and descriptive data in user-friendly formats, maximizing potential impact in the scientific community.
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