Adaptive changes in the genome may provide insight into the genetics of complex disease

nd obesity.

"The environment of modern humans is dramatically different compared to our ancestors who lived just 10,000 years ago. Now we have unlimited access to fast food and super-sized versions of everything. Although the "thrifty gene hypothesis" may be overly simplistic, the basic idea that genetic variation that once helped us but is now working against us may indeed turn out to be true for some genes that increase susceptibility to complex diseases. If this is true, finding genes that have been affected by natural selection may also help us find complex disease genes," Akey said.

In the paper, Akey and colleagues describe several additional genes that have been affected by selection and show a connection to diseases such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, susceptibility to infection, asthma, and Alzheimer's disease.

He and colleagues used data from the Seattle SNPs project, led by Dr. Deborah Nickerson, a professor in the Department of Genome Sciences at UW, which is a large-scale study of genetic variation and how it may affect the function of human genes.

Akey performed the research as a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Leonid Kruglyak at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Human Biology Division. The project is part of the programs for genomic application funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The authors include Dr. Joshua Akey, Dr. Leonid Kruglyak, Dr. Deborah A. Nickerson, Dr. Michael A. Eberle of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Mark J. Rieder and Dr. Christopher S. Carlson of the UW Department of Genome Sciences, and Dr. Mark D. Shriver at the Pennsylvania State University, Department of Anthropology.


Contact: Walter Neary
University of Washington

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