Conventional genetic analysis focuses on the genes that account for specific phenotypes, while traditional epidemiology is more concerned with the environmental causes and risk factors related to traits. Genetic epidemiology is an alliance of the 2 fields that focuses on both genetics, including allelic variants in different populations, and environment, in order to explain exactly how genes convey effects in different environmental contexts and to arrive at a more complete comprehension of the etiology of complex traits. In this review, we discuss the epidemiology of diabetes and the current understanding of the genetic bases of obesity and diabetes and provide suggestions for accelerated accumulation of clinically useful genetic information.
M. Alan Permutt, Jonathon Wasson, Nancy Cox
Genetic epidemiological studies suggest that individual variation in susceptibility to schizophrenia is largely genetic, reflecting alleles of moderate to small effect in multiple genes. Molecular genetic studies have identified a number of potential regions of linkage and 2 associated chromosomal abnormalities, and accumulating evidence favors several positional candidate genes. These findings are grounds for optimism that insight into genetic factors associated with schizophrenia will help further our understanding of this disease and contribute to the development of new ways to treat it.
George Kirov, Michael C. O’Donovan, Michael J. Owen
Gene defects play a major role in the pathogenesis of degenerative disorders of the nervous system. In fact, it has been the very knowledge gained from genetic studies that has allowed the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying the etiology and pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative disorders. In this review, we discuss the current status of genetic epidemiology of the most common neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington disease, and prion diseases, with a particular focus on similarities and differences among these syndromes.
Lars Bertram, Rudolph E. Tanzi
The remarkable achievements in human genetics over the years have been due to technological advances in gene mapping and in statistical methods that relate genetic variants to disease. Nearly every Mendelian genetic disorder has now been mapped to a specific gene or set of genes, but these discoveries have been limited to high-risk, variant alleles that segregate in rare families. With a working draft of the human genome now in hand, the availability of high-throughput genotyping, a plethora of genetic markers, and the development of new analytical methods, scientists are now turning their attention to common complex disorders such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and Alzheimer disease. In this issue, the JCI provides readers with a series dedicated to complex genetic disorders, offering a view of genetic medicine in the 21st century.
Over the last decade, an abundance of evidence has emerged demonstrating a close link between metabolism and immunity. It is now clear that obesity is associated with a state of chronic low-level inflammation. In this article, we discuss the molecular and cellular underpinnings of obesity-induced inflammation and the signaling pathways at the intersection of metabolism and inflammation that contribute to diabetes. We also consider mechanisms through which the inflammatory response may be initiated and discuss the reasons for the inflammatory response in obesity. We put forth for consideration some hypotheses regarding important unanswered questions in the field and suggest a model for the integration of inflammatory and metabolic pathways in metabolic disease.
Kathryn E. Wellen, Gökhan S. Hotamisligil
For approximately 80 years following Alzheimer’s description of the disease that bears his name, a gulf divided researchers who believed that extracellular deposits of the amyloid β (Aβ) peptide were pathogenic from those who believed that the deposits were secondary detritus. Since 1990, the discoveries of missense mutations in the Aβ peptide precursor (APP) and the APP-cleaving enzyme presenilin 1 (PS1) have enabled much progress in understanding the molecular, cellular, and tissue pathology of the aggregates that accumulate in the interstices of the brains of patients with autosomal dominant familial Alzheimer disease (AD). Clarification of the molecular basis of common forms of AD has been more elusive. The central questions in common AD focus on whether cerebral and cerebrovascular Aβ accumulation is (a) a final neurotoxic pathway, common to all forms of AD; (b) a toxic by-product of an independent primary metabolic lesion that, by itself, is also neurotoxic; or (c) an inert by-product of an independent primary neurotoxic reaction. Antiamyloid medications are entering clinical trials so that researchers can evaluate whether abolition of cerebral amyloidosis can mitigate, treat, or prevent the dementia associated with common forms of AD. Successful development of antiamyloid medications is critical for elucidating the role of Aβ in common AD.
Cutaneous T cell lymphomas (CTCLs) are a heterogenous group of lymphoproliferative disorders caused by clonally derived, skin-invasive T cells. Mycosis fungoides (MF) and Sézary syndrome (SS) are the most common types of CTCLs and are characterized by malignant CD4+/CLA+/CCR4+ T cells that also lack the usual T cell surface markers CD7 and/or CD26. As MF/SS advances, the clonal dominance of the malignant cells results in the expression of predominantly Th2 cytokines, progressive immune dysregulation in patients, and further tumor cell growth. This review summarizes recent insights into the pathogenesis and immunobiology of MF/SS and how these have shaped current therapeutic approaches, in particular the growing emphasis on enhancement of host antitumor immune responses as the key to successful therapy.
Ellen J. Kim, Stephen Hess, Stephen K. Richardson, Sara Newton, Louise C. Showe, Bernice M. Benoit, Ravi Ubriani, Carmela C. Vittorio, Jacqueline M. Junkins-Hopkins, Maria Wysocka, Alain H. Rook
Melanoma is a cancer of the neural crest–derived cells that provide pigmentation to skin and other tissues. Over the past 4 decades, the incidence of melanoma has increased more rapidly than that of any other malignancy in the United States. No current treatments substantially enhance patient survival once metastasis has occurred. This review focuses on recent insights into melanoma genetics and new therapeutic approaches being developed based on these advances.
Yakov Chudnovsky, Paul A. Khavari, Amy E. Adams
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is defined as glucose intolerance of various degrees that is first detected during pregnancy. GDM is detected through the screening of pregnant women for clinical risk factors and, among at-risk women, testing for abnormal glucose tolerance that is usually, but not invariably, mild and asymptomatic. GDM appears to result from the same broad spectrum of physiological and genetic abnormalities that characterize diabetes outside of pregnancy. Indeed, women with GDM are at high risk for having or developing diabetes when they are not pregnant. Thus, GDM provides a unique opportunity to study the early pathogenesis of diabetes and to develop interventions to prevent the disease.
Thomas A. Buchanan, Anny H. Xiang
The prognosis of heart failure is worse than that of most cancers, but new therapeutic interventions using stem and other cell-based therapies are succeeding in the fight against it, and old drugs, with new twists, are making a comeback. Genetically engineered animal models are driving insights into the molecular mechanisms that cause hearts to fail, accelerating drug discoveries, and inspiring cell-based therapeutic interventions for both acquired and inheritable cardiac diseases.
Ivor J. Benjamin, Michael D. Schneider
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