Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Genomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Massive Genomics Project Answers Questions, Poses New Ones in Health, Genetics and Aging

Published: Thursday, November 22, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Initial findings focus on telomere trends with ethnicity, socioeconomic status, lifestyle.

People with the shortest telomeres really do have a date with the Grim Reaper, according to new data coming out of the largest and most diverse genomics, health and longevity project in the nation.

Among the initial results from the Grand Opportunity Project on genetics, health, aging and the environment – a joint project between Kaiser Permanente and UCSF – is the finding that the 10 percent of people with the shortest telomere lengths had more than a 20 percent higher risk of dying during the ensuing three years than any other group.

But whether these shortened DNA nibs at the end of our chromosomes are harbingers of death or actually contribute to our downfall remains in question.

The new findings, and the increasing questions they pose, are some of the first results to emerge from the Kaiser Permanente-UCSF project that was launched in 2009 as the scientific equivalent of the large-scale infrastructure projects of the 1930s, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam.

Joining Forces for Massive Genetic Analysis

Supported with $25 million through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the project set out to combine the strong epidemiological research and comprehensive, consistent health records at Kaiser Permanente with UCSF’s strengths in genetics and telomere research, to create a national resource that would transform health science into the foreseeable future.

The overall project links a genetic analysis of 110,266 saliva samples collected at Kaiser Permanente of Northern California over the past five years to decades of Kaiser Permanente health records, as well as UCSF measurements of longevity markers and state environmental exposures. That health data includes thousands of pharmacy records and years of cholesterol and lipid tests, as well as mammograms, EKGs and MRI scans, all performed in the same laboratories with consistent techniques.

That is an invaluable resource, the researchers said, and already is starting to show results.

“We discovered 103 different genes underlying HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, with p values (statistical significance) that have never been seen before, and there’s more to come,” said Neil Risch, PhD, director of the UCSF Institute for Human Genetics, who is jointly leading the overall project with Cathy Schaefer, PhD, in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

“What underlies these traits and diseases are many, many genes,” said Risch, a statistical geneticist who already has uncovered numerous genetic SNPS (single nucleotide polymorphisms) through this project that have never before been detected. “To see them all, you need very large samples. That’s what we have in this project.”

Its first results are both substantiating and refuting findings from smaller projects, while posing new questions for scientists to tackle in the years to come.

“We’re at the beginning of some really interesting analyses of telomere length,” said Schaefer, an epidemiologist who led the analyses of the telomere data, after the telomeres were measured in the UCSF laboratory of Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD.

“We know that telomere length declines with age and several studies have shown that telomere length is related to a number of diseases,” Schaefer said. “The question is whether the length is simply a marker of cumulative experiences, or whether it plays a direct role in health.”

Some Surprising Findings on Telomeres

The initial findings, which stem from a one-year extension to begin analyses using the remainder of the team’s ARRA funding, were presented as talks and posters during the American Society of Human Genetics conference in San Francisco on Nov. 7-8.

Among the findings were a number of genes connected to diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases, among other health conditions.

There also was clear evidence that telomeres are longer in African-Americans and in people with higher educational status, while they are shorter for people in low socioeconomic communities. Telomeres also rise sharply in men who are over 75 years old and in women over 80, which the researchers said probably means that these individuals – through genetics or long-term lifestyle – were programmed on a cellular basis to outlast their peers.

Smoking and alcohol consumption also were directly linked to shorter telomeres, with a direct correlation between the number of packs of cigarettes smoked during a lifetime and shorter DNA nibs on an individual’s chromosomes, which the researchers said validated the link between what we know about overall health conditions and our cellular health. But they found no link between exercise and telomere length, which has previously been reported.

The great surprise so far, Schaefer said, was in participants with the highest Body Mass Index, who consistently showed longer telomeres. That’s despite extensive data showing that these individuals have more health problems and worse health prognoses overall.

The UCSF Institute for Human Genetics, through its Genomics Core Facility, also derived genetic information at 700,000 or more locations in the genome for each individual.  The resulting combination of health and genetic data, which includes over 70 billion genotypes and took two years to collect and quantify, is currently available as a resource through the Kaiser Permanente-UCSF team for external researchers studying the genetic or environmental basis of disease.

Later this fall, much of the data also will be incorporated into a national database known as dbGAP, run by the National Institutes of Health, which will be available to researchers worldwide.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Scientists Create CRISPR/Cas9 Knock-In Mutations in Human T Cells
In a project spearheaded by investigators at UC San Francisco, scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human T cells using the genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Engineers Crack DNA Code of Autoimmune Disorders
Researchers have identified an unexpectedly general set of rules that determine which molecules can cause the immune system to become vulnerable to the autoimmune disorders lupus and psoriasis.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Genetic Markers for Detecting and Treating Ovarian Cancer
Custom bioinformatics algorithm identifies human mRNAs that distinguish ovarian cancer cells from normal cells and provide new therapeutic targets
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Industry-Sponsored Academic Inventions Spur Increased Innovation
Analysis questions assumption that corporate support skews science toward inventions that are less useful than those funded by the government or non-profit organizations.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Researchers Change Cell Types by Flipping a Single Switch
New findings have identified a method for changing one cell type into another in a process called forced transdifferentiation.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Scientists Pinpoint Cell Type and Brain Region Affected by Gene Mutations in Autism
UCSF-led study zeroes in on when and where disrupted genes exert effects.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Digging Deeper Into Cancer
What a pathologist looks for in a Pap test sample, but hopes not to find, are oddly shaped cells with abnormally large nuclei. The same is true for prostate and lung cancer biopsies.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Nanotech Method Show Promise Against Pancreatic Cancer
Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new technique for fighting deadly and hard-to-treat pancreatic cancer.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Researchers Un-Junking Junk DNA
A study shines a new light on molecular tools our cells use to govern regulated gene expression.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Fast-Mutating DNA Sequences Shape Early Development
What does it mean to be human? According to scientists the key lies, ultimately, in the billions of lines of genetic code that comprise the human genome.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Did Inefficient Cellular Machinery Evolve to Fight Viruses and Jumping Genes?
UCSF scientist poses new theory on origins of eukaryotic gene expression.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Powerful Anti-Cancer Compound Safely Delivered
Researchers have discovered a way to effectively deliver staurosporine (STS).
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
New Insights into How Proteins Regulate Genes
Researchers have developed a new way to parse and understand how special proteins called "master regulators" read the genome, and consequently turn genes on and off.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Cell Growth Discovery Has Implications for Targeting Cancer
The way cells divide to form new cells is controlled in previously unsuspected ways.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Single Gene Mutation Linked to Neurological Disorders
Mutation could offer insights into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntigton’s Diseases.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Scientific News
Long Telomeres Associated with Increased Lung Cancer Risk
Genetic predisposition for long telomeres predicts increased lung adenocarcinoma risk.
Expanding the Brain
A team of researchers has identified more than 40 new “imprinted” genes, in which either the maternal or paternal copy of a gene is expressed while the other is silenced.
Identifying a Key Growth Factor in Cell Proliferation
Researchers discover that aspartate is a limiter of cell proliferation.
Study Uncovers Target for Preventing Huntington’s Disease
Scientists from Cardiff University believe that a treatment to prevent or delay the symptoms of Huntington’s disease could now be much closer, following a major breakthrough.
The Genetic Roots of Adolescent Scoliosis
Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in collaboration with Keio University in Japan have discovered a gene that is linked to susceptibility of Scoliosis.
A Gene-Sequence Swap Using CRISPR to Cure Haemophilia
For the first time chromosomal defects responsible for hemophilia have been corrected in patient-specific iPSCs using CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases
New Tool Uses 'Drug Spillover' to Match Cancer Patients with Treatments
Researchers have developed a new tool that improves the ability to match drugs to disease: the Kinase Addiction Ranker (KAR) predicts what genetics are truly driving the cancer in any population of cells and chooses the best "kinase inhibitor" to silence these dangerous genetic causes of disease.
Understanding the Molecular Origin of Epigenetic Markers
Researchers at IRB Barcelona discover the molecular mechanism that determines how epigenetic markers influence gene expression.
New Tech Enables Epigenomic Analysis with a Mere 100 Cells
A new technology that will dramatically enhance investigations of epigenomes, the machinery that turns on and off genes and a very prominent field of study in diseases such as stem cell differentiation, inflammation and cancer has been developed by researchers at Virginia Tech.
Access Denied: Leukemia Thwarted by Cutting Off Link to Environmental Support
A new study reveals a protein’s critical – and previously unknown -- role in the development and progression of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a fast-growing and extremely difficult-to-treat blood cancer.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!