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Diseases of aging map to a few 'hotspots' on the human genome
Date:9/19/2012

Researchers have long known that individual diseases are associated with genes in specific locations of the genome. Genetics researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill now have shown definitively that a small number of places in the human genome are associated with a large number and variety of diseases. In particular, several diseases of aging are associated with a locus which is more famous for its role in preventing cancer.

For this analysis, researchers at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center catalogued results from several hundred human Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) from the National Human Genome Research Institute. These results provided an unbiased means to determine if varied different diseases mapped to common 'hotspot' regions of the human genome. This analysis showed that two different genomic locations are associated with two major subcategories of human disease.

"Our team is interested in understanding genetic susceptibility to diseases associated with aging, including cancer," said PhD student William Jeck, who was first author on the study, published in the journal Aging Cell.

The team examined the large NHGRI dataset and first eliminated hereditable traits such as eye or hair color and other non-disease traits like drug metabolism. The group then focused on variants identified from GWAS that contributed to actual diseases. Combining results from all of these studies, there was enough data to arrive at statistically valid conclusions. The team then mapped the disease associations to the appropriate locations of the genome, counting the number of unique diseases mapping to specific genomic regions, in order to see if disparate diseases mapped randomly throughout the genome, or clustered in hotspots.

"What we ended up with is a very interesting distribution of disease risk across the genome. More than 90 percent of the genome lacked any disease loci. Surprising
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Contact: Ellen de Graffenreid
edegraff@med.unc.edu
919-962-3405
University of North Carolina Health Care
Source:Eurekalert

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