Researchers Find a Way to Mimic Clinical Trials Using Genetics

By: Gary Taubes

In: MIT Technology Review

Date: August 28, 2018

Key Quotes:

  • Epidemiology.
    • Study and analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations.
    • How often diseases occur in different groups of people and why.
    • Can’t always answer fundamental questions, especially related to chronic diseases.
    • Because: correlation is not causation.
    • Hard to determine which correlations are causal and which are not
  • Mendelian randomization.
    • Uses innate genetic differences between people to investigate the causal relations between potentially modifiable risk factors and health outcomes in observational data.
    • Naturally occurring randomized controlled trials.
      • Genotypes are passed down randomly from parents to their offspring.
    • Risk of pleiotropy:
      • Potential that gene variants have more than one specific phenotypic effect.
    • Therefore, important that the gene variant influences only trait of interest.
      • If multiple traits are influenced => risk of confounding.
    • Example:
      • Epidemiology: high HDL is associated with lower risk of heart disease.
      • MR: however, those of us born with genes that raise our HDL do not have fewer heart attacks.
      • Conclusion: HDL may be correlated with heart disease, but HDL likely does not play a causal role.
    • Additional source:

Leave a Reply