GPS information for BMI and obesity now available in the CVDKP

Genome-wide polygenic scores (GPS) have great potential for helping to advance research on complex diseases and traits. Not only can they help predict individual genetic risk, but they can also help us understand the physiology of disease, by identifying groups at the extremes of risk whose clinical profiles can be studied or who may be enrolled in clinical trials.

Following up on their previous work that generated GPSs for five complex diseases, co-lead authors Amit Khera and Mark Chaffin, along with senior author Sekar Kathiresan and colleagues, have now developed a GPS for body mass index (BMI) and obesity, published today in Cell. To help promote obesity research, the authors have provided a file, now available for download from the Data page of the CVDKP, that lists the variants and weights that comprise the GPS.

To generate this GPS, Khera and colleagues started with a large, recently published genome-wide association study (GWAS) for BMI in more than 300,000 UK Biobank participants (Locke et al., 2015) and applied an algorithm that assigned a weight to each of 2.1 million variants, also taking into account factors such as the proportion of variants with non-zero effect size and the degree of correlation between a variant and its neighbors. They validated the GPS by applying it to nearly 120,000 additional UK Biobank participants, finding that the score was strongly correlated with measured BMI, and then applied it to four independent testing datasets.

We don't have space here to cover the many interesting details uncovered by the researchers, but overall, this work shows that a high GPS strongly predicts increased risk of severe obesity, cardiometabolic disease, and all-cause mortality. Those with the very highest GPS had a level of risk for obesity similar to that conferred by a rare monogenic mutation in the MC4R gene.

The GPS has the potential to be a powerful tool for people struggling with overweight and obesity. "Importantly, we are in the early days of identifying how we can best inform and empower patients to overcome health risks in their genetic background," said Khera in a press release from the Broad Institute. "We are incredibly excited about the potential to improve health outcomes."

We invite you to read the paper, take a look at the file of variants and weights freely available from the CVDKP Data page, and contact us with any questions!


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