A tutorial in genetic epidemiology and some considerations in statistical modeling

Erick Suárez, Carlos A. Sariol, Ana Burguete, Geoffrey Mclachlan


A new door has been opened to health professionals since the completion of the map of the human genome was announced in 2003, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA helical structure by Watson and Crick in 1953. The continuous updating of the technology has enabled scientists to simultaneously analyze thousands of variables for genome analysis. These advances have created new opportunities to locate genes, to assess the gene-gene relationship, to measure the gene-environment interaction, to describe gene products, and to evaluate the gene-disease relationship. In epidemiology, new strategies have been developed to determine cause-effect relationship in case-control studies and cohort studies. With the information provided by the Human Genome Project, new epidemiological designs and new statistical methodology have been developed. The addition of molecular biology to traditional epidemiological approaches has given birth to a new discipline known as genetic epidemiology. The objective of this paper is to provide an introduction to concepts needed for assessing the association between genes and specific diseases in population based studies. Firstly, a description of the genetic concepts is presented as a framework for the epidemiological designs and the statistical procedures that have been utilized in genetic epidemiology. Then, a description of the different designs in genetic epidemiology is presented with the most recent publications. Finally, some considerations in the statistical analysis for genetic epidemiology are discussed.

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