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Approved Research

Phenome-Wide Association Study to determine the impact of genetic variation in the FADS-DAGLA gene cluster on physical, clinical, and biochemical phenotypes.

Principal Investigator: Dr Floyd Chilton
Approved Research ID: 74535
Approval date: October 12th 2021

Lay summary

Our genes control the body's ability to produce adequate amounts of different fats from our diet. Our body is made up of about 25% fat, and fats not only serve as energy storage, but they also affect how our body functions on a daily basis.  We know that the "omega-3" and "omega-6" fats are involved in inflammation and that the proportion between them deserves special attention. Omega-6 fats can increase the risk of inflammation-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, autism spectrum disorders, and Alzheimer's disease. Omega-3 fats, on the other hand, are the most abundant component in the cell membranes of our nervous system, which makes them critical to brain development and function. They also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are converted to other molecules that are present in practically all the cells and tissues of our body and act as signaling messengers that have a great impact on how it functions. Endocannabinoids are examples of such molecules; they can affect energy balance, metabolism, mood, memory, sleep, reproduction, regulation of body temperature, and immune function. The modern Western diet dramatically increased the amount of omega-6 fats that we eat. As a consequence, our body makes more omega-6 than omega-3 fats.  We believe that certain individuals may be at a higher risk than others because of how the genetic variations that they carry affect the proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 fats that their bodies produce. We wish to study how variations in a gene region called the "FADS-DAGLA gene cluster" can affect health. This region controls the production of omega-3 and omega-6 fats and endocannabinoids from the fats in our diet. Our study will look at all the different human traits and diseases of the UK Biobank participants, including body size and body composition, health and diseases, and blood and urine composition, to find which ones are associated with variations in this gene region. This is called a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS). The detailed clinical information available through the UK Biobank will allow us to study these associations and better understand the connection between human genes and how diet affects each of us in different ways. This understanding will help us make more accurate public health recommendations and learn how to personalize disease prevention and treatment strategies.