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Study Finds Limited Genetic, Epigenetic Overlap for Complex Traits

The complex trait contributors found with genome-wide association studies may be largely distinct from those found through epigenome-wide association studies of the same condition, according to a paper by a University of Bristol-led team appearing in Nature Communications. The team considered GWAS and EWAS data spanning 15 complex traits such as body mass index, smoking or alcohol use, blood pressure measures, cognitive skills, or educational attainment. With data from more than 50,000 GWAS participants and some 4,500 individuals from prior EWAS studies led to shared genetic contributors in certain conditions such as diastolic blood pressure, the authors report. More often, though, they suggest that the GWAS and EWAS approaches "are likely capturing distinct genesets" and "different aspects of the biology of complex traits."