New research estimates the overall disease burden of genetic risk factors

Researchers have, for the first time, systematically estimated the impact of a range of different disease-associated genetic risk factors on the loss of healthy life years. Knowing the contribution of different genetic risk factors on disease burden can help prioritise and design interventions using genetic information.

How many years of healthy life does an individual with a specific genetic risk factor lose? New research from the University of Helsinki tries to provide an answer to this challenging question.

The scientists selected both common and rare disease-associated genetic variants and sorted them based on their impact on the average number of healthy life years lost, both from the perspective of an individual person and the population.

For this, they analysed genetic and health data from more than 735,000 individuals from two large biobank studies: the Finnish FinnGen study and UK Biobank.

The study, led by Andrea Ganna, a group leader at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM, University of Helsinki, was published online September 12 in Nature Medicine.

The results show that, at the population level, common genetic variants that increase the risk of cardio-vascular diseases or Alzheimer’s disease have a substantial impact on the number of healthy life years lost.

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