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Approved Research

Polygeny and pleiotropy among quantitative traits, diseases of circulatory system, respiratory system, and mental disorders.

Principal Investigator: Professor Jie Huang
Approved Research ID: 66137
Approval date: November 25th 2020

Lay summary

At this difficult time of COVID-19 pandemic, we realize the importance of "One Health", which aims to achieve optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. For each of us, although our health conditions and diseases are categorized and characterized differently in clinical practice, we have only "One Body", that is, our health is a fully connected system.

Our aim is to apply modern statistical and computational biology methods on the rich phenotyping and genetic data of UK Biobank to explore the deep connection and causation among phenotypically distinct disease and health traits. We primarily focus on diseases of circulatory system, respiratory system, and mental disorders, which lead to major health burden in UK as well as across the globe. 

Our research plan includes developing systematic methods and analytic pipelines that study both genetic risk scores and lifestyle factors in UK Biobank, and also potentially in a couple of other ethnically diverse Biobanks. The UK Biobank data has a unique opportunity to fully study cross-trait connection among health conditions and diseases, because it represents a diverse and overall healthy population.

Key infrastructure of our projected research and some piloting methods have already been in development or in pilot phase. Our proposed research project is expected to take 30 months to be fully developed, with quality scientific work published, students trained, and international collaborations established. Our proposed research to study shared biological pathways would benefit greatly medical diagnosis, counselling and treatment. For example, by studying the shared and distinct genetic architecture of various subtypes of circulatory diseases defined by ICD (International Classification of Disease), we might provide good guidance for refining future versions of ICD.  Also, by studying the common biological pathways between circulatory disease and pulmonary diseases, we might shed light on how heart health is affected by COVID-19 caused issues in lung. 

Our research is well in line with the UK Biobank's aim to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses. Summary statistics data generated from our research will be made available, following UK Biobank's guidelines. We expect to develop new methods and tools that could benefit the broad scientific community.