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  • malariaAtlas: an R interface to global malariometric data hosted by the Malaria Atlas Project.

    21 November 2018

    BACKGROUND:The Malaria Atlas Project (MAP) has worked to assemble and maintain a global open-access database of spatial malariometric data for over a decade. This data spans various formats and topics, including: geo-located surveys of malaria parasite rate; global administrative boundary shapefiles; and global and regional rasters representing the distribution of malaria and associated illnesses, blood disorders, and intervention coverage. MAP has recently released malariaAtlas, an R package providing a direct interface to MAP's routinely-updated malariometric databases and research outputs. METHODS AND RESULTS:The current paper reviews the functionality available in malariaAtlas and highlights its utility for spatial epidemiological analysis of malaria. malariaAtlas enables users to freely download, visualise and analyse global malariometric data within R. Currently available data types include: malaria parasite rate and vector occurrence point data; subnational administrative boundary shapefiles; and a large suite of rasters covering a diverse range of metrics related to malaria research. malariaAtlas is here used in two mock analyses to illustrate how this data may be incorporated into a standard R workflow for spatial analysis. CONCLUSIONS:malariaAtlas is the first open-access R-interface to malariometric data, providing a new and reproducible means of accessing such data within a freely available and commonly used statistical software environment. In this way, the malariaAtlas package aims to contribute to the environment of data-sharing within the malaria research community.

  • Publisher Correction: Genetic analysis of over 1 million people identifies 535 new loci associated with blood pressure traits.

    16 January 2019

    In the version of this article originally published, the name of author Martin H. de Borst was coded incorrectly in the XML. The error has now been corrected in the HTML version of the paper.

  • Genome Analyses of >200,000 Individuals Identify 58 Loci for Chronic Inflammation and Highlight Pathways that Link Inflammation and Complex Disorders.

    16 January 2019

    C-reactive protein (CRP) is a sensitive biomarker of chronic low-grade inflammation and is associated with multiple complex diseases. The genetic determinants of chronic inflammation remain largely unknown, and the causal role of CRP in several clinical outcomes is debated. We performed two genome-wide association studies (GWASs), on HapMap and 1000 Genomes imputed data, of circulating amounts of CRP by using data from 88 studies comprising 204,402 European individuals. Additionally, we performed in silico functional analyses and Mendelian randomization analyses with several clinical outcomes. The GWAS meta-analyses of CRP revealed 58 distinct genetic loci (p < 5 × 10-8). After adjustment for body mass index in the regression analysis, the associations at all except three loci remained. The lead variants at the distinct loci explained up to 7.0% of the variance in circulating amounts of CRP. We identified 66 gene sets that were organized in two substantially correlated clusters, one mainly composed of immune pathways and the other characterized by metabolic pathways in the liver. Mendelian randomization analyses revealed a causal protective effect of CRP on schizophrenia and a risk-increasing effect on bipolar disorder. Our findings provide further insights into the biology of inflammation and could lead to interventions for treating inflammation and its clinical consequences.

  • Identification of additional risk loci for stroke and small vessel disease: a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies.

    16 January 2019

    Genetic determinants of stroke, the leading neurological cause of death and disability, are poorly understood and have seldom been explored in the general population. Our aim was to identify additional loci for stroke by doing a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies.For the discovery sample, we did a genome-wide analysis of common genetic variants associated with incident stroke risk in 18 population-based cohorts comprising 84 961 participants, of whom 4348 had stroke. Stroke diagnosis was ascertained and validated by the study investigators. Mean age at stroke ranged from 45·8 years to 76·4 years, and data collection in the studies took place between 1948 and 2013. We did validation analyses for variants yielding a significant association (at p<5 × 10(-6)) with all-stroke, ischaemic stroke, cardioembolic ischaemic stroke, or non-cardioembolic ischaemic stroke in the largest available cross-sectional studies (70 804 participants, of whom 19 816 had stroke). Summary-level results of discovery and follow-up stages were combined using inverse-variance weighted fixed-effects meta-analysis, and in-silico lookups were done in stroke subtypes. For genome-wide significant findings (at p<5 × 10(-8)), we explored associations with additional cerebrovascular phenotypes and did functional experiments using conditional (inducible) deletion of the probable causal gene in mice. We also studied the expression of orthologs of this probable causal gene and its effects on cerebral vasculature in zebrafish mutants.We replicated seven of eight known loci associated with risk for ischaemic stroke, and identified a novel locus at chromosome 6p25 (rs12204590, near FOXF2) associated with risk of all-stroke (odds ratio [OR] 1·08, 95% CI 1·05-1·12, p=1·48 × 10(-8); minor allele frequency 21%). The rs12204590 stroke risk allele was also associated with increased MRI-defined burden of white matter hyperintensity-a marker of cerebral small vessel disease-in stroke-free adults (n=21 079; p=0·0025). Consistently, young patients (aged 2-32 years) with segmental deletions of FOXF2 showed an extensive burden of white matter hyperintensity. Deletion of Foxf2 in adult mice resulted in cerebral infarction, reactive gliosis, and microhaemorrhage. The orthologs of FOXF2 in zebrafish (foxf2b and foxf2a) are expressed in brain pericytes and mutant foxf2b(-/-) cerebral vessels show decreased smooth muscle cell and pericyte coverage.We identified common variants near FOXF2 that are associated with increased stroke susceptibility. Epidemiological and experimental data suggest that FOXF2 mediates this association, potentially via differentiation defects of cerebral vascular mural cells. Further expression studies in appropriate human tissues, and further functional experiments with long follow-up periods are needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms.NIH, NINDS, NHMRC, CIHR, European national research institutions, Fondation Leducq.

  • GWAS Identifies Risk Locus for Erectile Dysfunction and Implicates Hypothalamic Neurobiology and Diabetes in Etiology.

    16 January 2019

    Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition affecting more than 20% of men over 60 years, yet little is known about its genetic architecture. We performed a genome-wide association study of ED in 6,175 case subjects among 223,805 European men and identified one locus at 6q16.3 (lead variant rs57989773, OR 1.20 per C-allele; p = 5.71 × 10-14), located between MCHR2 and SIM1. In silico analysis suggests SIM1 to confer ED risk through hypothalamic dysregulation. Mendelian randomization provides evidence that genetic risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus is a cause of ED (OR 1.11 per 1-log unit higher risk of type 2 diabetes). These findings provide insights into the biological underpinnings and the causes of ED and may help prioritize the development of future therapies for this common disorder.

  • Large-scale genome-wide meta-analysis of polycystic ovary syndrome suggests shared genetic architecture for different diagnosis criteria.

    16 January 2019

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder characterized by hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction and polycystic ovarian morphology. Affected women frequently have metabolic disturbances including insulin resistance and dysregulation of glucose homeostasis. PCOS is diagnosed with two different sets of diagnostic criteria, resulting in a phenotypic spectrum of PCOS cases. The genetic similarities between cases diagnosed based on the two criteria have been largely unknown. Previous studies in Chinese and European subjects have identified 16 loci associated with risk of PCOS. We report a fixed-effect, inverse-weighted-variance meta-analysis from 10,074 PCOS cases and 103,164 controls of European ancestry and characterisation of PCOS related traits. We identified 3 novel loci (near PLGRKT, ZBTB16 and MAPRE1), and provide replication of 11 previously reported loci. Only one locus differed significantly in its association by diagnostic criteria; otherwise the genetic architecture was similar between PCOS diagnosed by self-report and PCOS diagnosed by NIH or non-NIH Rotterdam criteria across common variants at 13 loci. Identified variants were associated with hyperandrogenism, gonadotropin regulation and testosterone levels in affected women. Linkage disequilibrium score regression analysis revealed genetic correlations with obesity, fasting insulin, type 2 diabetes, lipid levels and coronary artery disease, indicating shared genetic architecture between metabolic traits and PCOS. Mendelian randomization analyses suggested variants associated with body mass index, fasting insulin, menopause timing, depression and male-pattern balding play a causal role in PCOS. The data thus demonstrate 3 novel loci associated with PCOS and similar genetic architecture for all diagnostic criteria. The data also provide the first genetic evidence for a male phenotype for PCOS and a causal link to depression, a previously hypothesized comorbid disease. Thus, the genetics provide a comprehensive view of PCOS that encompasses multiple diagnostic criteria, gender, reproductive potential and mental health.

  • Genome-Wide Association Studies of Estimated Fatty Acid Desaturase Activity in Serum and Adipose Tissue in Elderly Individuals: Associations with Insulin Sensitivity.

    16 January 2019

    Fatty acid desaturases (FADS) catalyze the formation of unsaturated fatty acids and have been related to insulin sensitivity (IS). FADS activities differ between tissues and are influenced by genetic factors that may impact the link to IS. Genome-wide association studies of δ-5-desaturase (D5D), δ-6-desaturase (D6D) and stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 (SCD) activities (estimated by product-to-precursor ratios of fatty acids analyzed by gas chromatography) in serum cholesterol esters (n = 1453) and adipose tissue (n = 783, all men) were performed in two Swedish population-based cohorts. Genome-wide significant associated loci were evaluated for associations with IS measured with a hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp (n = 554). Variants at the FADS1 were strongly associated with D5D in both cholesterol esters (p = 1.9 × 10-70) and adipose tissue (p = 1.1 × 10-27). Variants in three further loci were associated with D6D in cholesterol esters (FADS2, p = 3.0 × 10-67; PDXDCI, p = 4.8 × 10-8; and near MC4R, p = 3.7 × 10-8) but no associations with D6D in adipose tissue attained genome-wide significance. One locus was associated with SCD in adipose tissue (PKDL1, p = 2.2 × 10-19). Genetic variants near MC4R were associated with IS (p = 3.8 × 10-3). The FADS cluster was the main genetic determinant of estimated FADS activity. However, fatty acid (FA) ratios in adipose tissue and cholesterol esters represent FADS activities in separate tissues and are thus influenced by different genetic factors with potential varying effects on IS.

  • Alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase gene polymorphisms, alcohol intake and the risk of colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study.

    11 December 2018

    Heavy alcohol drinking is a risk factor of colorectal cancer (CRC), but little is known on the effect of polymorphisms in the alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) on the alcohol-related risk of CRC in Caucasian populations.A nested case-control study (1269 cases matched to 2107 controls by sex, age, study centre and date of blood collection) was conducted within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) to evaluate the impact of rs1229984 (ADH1B), rs1573496 (ADH7) and rs441 (ALDH2) polymorphisms on CRC risk. Using the wild-type variant of each polymorphism as reference category, CRC risk estimates were calculated using conditional logistic regression, with adjustment for matching factors.Individuals carrying one copy of the rs1229984(A) (ADH1B) allele (fast metabolizers) showed an average daily alcohol intake of 4.3 g per day lower than subjects with two copies of the rs1229984(G) allele (slow metabolizers) (P(diff)<0.01). None of the polymorphisms was associated with risk of CRC or cancers of the colon or rectum. Heavy alcohol intake was more strongly associated with CRC risk among carriers of the rs1573496(C) allele, with odds ratio equal to 2.13 (95% confidence interval: 1.26-3.59) compared with wild-type subjects with low alcohol consumption (P(interaction)=0.07).The rs1229984(A) (ADH1B) allele was associated with a reduction in alcohol consumption. The rs1229984 (ADH1B), rs1573496 (ADH7) and rs441 (ALDH2) polymorphisms were not associated with CRC risk overall in Western-European populations. However, the relationship between alcohol and CRC risk might be modulated by the rs1573496 (ADH7) polymorphism.

  • Diabetes mellitus, glycated haemoglobin and C-peptide levels in relation to pancreatic cancer risk: a study within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort.

    11 December 2018

    There has been long-standing debate about whether diabetes is a causal risk factor for pancreatic cancer or a consequence of tumour development. Prospective epidemiological studies have shown variable relationships between pancreatic cancer risk and blood markers of glucose and insulin metabolism, overall and as a function of lag times between marker measurements (blood donation) and date of tumour diagnosis.Pre-diagnostic levels of HbA(1c) and C-peptide were measured for 466 participants with pancreatic cancer and 466 individually matched controls within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Conditional logistic regression models were used to estimate ORs for pancreatic cancer.Pancreatic cancer risk gradually increased with increasing pre-diagnostic HbA(1c) levels up to an OR of 2.42 (95% CI 1.33, 4.39 highest [≥ 6.5%, 48 mmol/mol] vs lowest [≤ 5.4%, 36 mmol/mol] category), even for individuals with HbA(1c) levels within the non-diabetic range. C-peptide levels showed no significant relationship with pancreatic cancer risk, irrespective of fasting status. Analyses showed no clear trends towards increasing hyperglycaemia (as marked by HbA(1c) levels) or reduced pancreatic beta cell responsiveness (as marked by C-peptide levels) with decreasing time intervals from blood donation to cancer diagnosis.Our data on HbA(1c) show that individuals who develop exocrine pancreatic cancer tend to have moderate increases in HbA(1c) levels, relatively independently of obesity and insulin resistance-the classic and major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. While there is no strong difference by lag time, more data are needed on this in order to reach a firm conclusion.

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    The Big Data Institute (BDI) is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on the analysis of large, complex, heterogeneous data sets for research into the causes and consequences, prevention and treatment of disease. Big Data methods are transforming the scale (breadth, depth and duration) and efficiency (data accumulation, storage, processing and dissemination) of large-scale clinical research. The work of the BDI requires people and projects that span traditional departmental boundaries and scientific disciplines, supported by technical resources to handle the vast quantities of data they generate.

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