DNA samples from 120,000 people are to be analysed in a 30 million pounds follow up to last year's Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC), the largest ever study of the genetics behind common diseases. The seven-fold increase in the number of samples to be analysed will allow researchers to look at 25 diseases as well as studying the genetics of learning in children and individuals' responses to statins.
Funded by the Wellcome Trust, this
new series of genome-wide association studies will be one of the most ambitious
initiatives ever undertaken, bringing together leading research groups from at
least 60 institutions internationally (including over 20 from the UK). Over the
next two years, working in collaboration with the WTCCC or independently, the
research teams are expected to analyse as many as 120 billion pieces of genetic
data in the search for the genes underlying diseases such as multiple sclerosis,
schizophrenia and asthma.
Researchers will examine between 500,000 and 1
million variants (SNPs) per sample as well as a comprehensive set of copy number
variants (CNVs). Both SNPs and CNVs are responsible of the individual variation
in our genomes.
"We have now entered a new era of large-scale genetics
unthinkable even a few years ago," says Professor Peter Donnelly from the
University of Oxford, who will chair the consortium. "Breakthroughs in our
understanding of the human genome and rapid advances in sequencing technology
mean that we are able to do very powerful analysis much faster and on a vastly
bigger scale than ever before."
When the results of the WTCCC were
announced in 2007, it was seen as a major breakthrough for medical science and
was selected as one of the scientific highlights of the year by a number of the
most prestigious scientific journals, including Nature and The Lancet. It
identified a number of new genes and regions of the human genome which increase
people's susceptibility to or protect them from particular diseases.
Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "It is now possible to
unlock the genetics of common diseases. Although genetics tells only part of the
story of disease, it can provide valuable and often unexpected insights that
offer the promise of developing new treatments for these often very complex
The research has been made possible by advances in progress
in improved understanding of human genome variants, pioneered by the Wellcome
Trust Sanger Institute at Hinxton, Cambridge. The Institute will devote a large
part of its high-throughput genotyping pipeline headed by Dr Panos Deloukas to
test many of the DNA samples. Most of the data analysis will be undertaken at
the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford.
Sanger Institute is bringing the power of its skills in genetic analysis to
tackle common disease, to provide leadership, expertise and resources where they
can make a difference," says Professor Leena Peltonen, who was appointed Head of
Human Genetics at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute last year. "Our redefined
strategy and joint expertise of human genetics faculty will ensure we deliver
yet more ground-breaking results in clinically relevant areas."
Article adapted by Medical News Today
from original press release.