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Approved research

Genetic heterogeneity in morphological, behavioral and health outcomes

Principal Investigator: Professor Melinda Mills
Approved Research ID: 22276
Approval date: January 1st 2017

Lay summary

In this study, we investigate genetic heterogeneity in a series morphological, behavioural and health outcomes to answer the question of whether the same genes are predicting these outcomes in different environments. The working hypothesis based on previous studies and theory is that genome-wide heterogeneity is important for behavioural outcomes such as education, fertility and smoking, however, it plays no or little role for morphological traits such as height and BMI. A central question is whether genetic influences on health outcomes such as blood pressure and heart-rate are the same across environments or not ? and why. In this study, we investigate the role of gene-environment interaction on morphological, behavioural and health outcomes at the population level. Gene-environment interaction is the most central indicator to tap the potential of societal interventions into diseases at the population level. If the environment is able to modify genetic effects on health outcomes, intervention is possible. Our overarching goal is to isolate and understand environmental risk factors for health and health related behaviour with respect to individual based genetic risk factors. We apply a recently developed research design which makes use of both genetic and observed data (only measured at assessment centres). We will look at the genetic material of all participants in the UKbiobank and calculate the genetic overlap between pairs of individuals. We then look whether pairs of individuals who share more genes are also more similar in the respective outcome phenotype. We finally look at whether this resemblance can be found mainly amongst individuals who share certain environmental conditions such as living in the same area or birth cohorts or engage in the same behaviour such as smoking. Full cohort.