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Who Doesn't Love a Good Boondoggle?

At The Bioscience Resource Project last week, Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson write that genome-wide association studies have failed to uncover any genes with a major effect on disease. Because of this, they suggest the idea that "genetic predispositions as significant factors in the prevalence of common diseases are refuted." Or as David Katz at The Huffington Post interprets the Latham and Wilson article:

Their dark view — which is predicated on the concession by premier geneticists that if there are genes that meaningfully account for common diseases, they are hiding in the dark matter of our DNA, whatever that is — suggests that genomics is one part boondoggle, one part conspiracy by the military-industrial establishment.

The Latham and Wilson article has "good and bad points," Mike the Mad Biologist says. GWAS need to be clear on the phenotype being studied, on the variation being screened, and the environment, he notes, adding that this is when "GWAS defenders will say, 'That's why we use twin studies!'" At Genomes Unzipped, Luke Jostins takes on that point, discussing estimates of heritability. Latham and Wilson consider the reliability of heritability estimates from twin studies and say heritability "fails to adequately incorporate environmental variation and inflates the relative importance of genes." Jostins, however, says that they made a "small statistical misunderstanding of how such studies are done" that influenced their conclusion.

HT: The Open Helix blog

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