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Approved Research

Gene-Environment Interactions of complex diseases based on big data analysis

Principal Investigator: Ms Claire Wu
Approved Research ID: 78563
Approval date: January 17th 2022

Lay summary

Many complex diseases, such as cancers, hypertension, diabetes, sensorineural hearing loss and so on, are known to be controlled by a complex interplay of both genetic and lifestyle factors. To reveal the extent to which increased genetic risk can be offset by a healthy lifestyle requires a large sample size, such as promised by UK Biobank.

AIMs: This study aims to test the hypothesis that genetic risk of specific disease, such as cancers, hypertension, diabetes and so on, might be attenuated by a favorable lifestyle.

We then exam the extent to which a healthy lifestyle is associated with a reduced risk of specific disease among participants with a high genetic risk.

Scientific rationale: Much evidence has also shown that people who adhere to a healthy lifestyle have markedly reduced rates of cancers and cardiovascular events, the promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviors, which include not smoking, avoiding obesity, regular physical activity, a healthy diet pattern, et al, underlies the current strategy to improve health in the general population. However, the extent to which increased genetic risk can be offset by a healthy lifestyle is unknown. Large sample size is important for scientific discovery, especially for complex human diseases. However, many available cohorts have sample size less than 10,000, which hampers scientific discovery. As a large prospective database, UK Biobank provides many opportunities to find the associations between genetic and lifestyle behaviors of complex disease risk.

Project duration: it is sufficient for 3 years. It takes 1 year to realize and test the genetic-lifestyle interactions of complex diseases in computer codes. Another year is required to analyze the UK Biobank data thoroughly. The third year will be spent writing a report for our discovery.

Public health impact: This prospective cohort study will provide quantitative data on how genetic risk, lifestyle behaviors, and their interactions with the risk of complex disease. Patients may equate DNA-based risk estimates with determinism, a perceived lack of control over the ability to improve outcomes. However, our results aim to provide evidence that lifestyle factors may powerfully modify risk regardless of the patient's genetic risk profile. The results are beneficial to carry out primary prevention of complex disease.