SNPwatch: The Year in Review

Our SNPwatch posts here at The Spittoon are one of our most exciting features. They give our customers the opportunity to connect their genetic data to the newest discoveries, often within just hours of a study’s publication.

Looking ahead to 2009, we can only begin to imagine the exciting discoveries that will be made in genetics. In the meantime, here are a few of our favorite SNPwatches from 2008:

SNPs That Affect Drug Response
We reported on several studies this year that showed the importance of genetic variations in determining how different people react to certain medications.

  • A report in Nature Genetics showed that some women with a particular version of a SNP in the NQO1 are less likely to survive breast cancer after treatment with the commonly used chemotherapeutic epirubicin.
  • A study by the SEARCH Collaborative Group found that a version of one SNP is associated with an increased risk for myopathy (muscle pain and/or weakness) in people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
  • Mayo clinic researchers found that the weight loss drug sibutramine (Meridia) is effective only in people with specific versions of three different genes.
  • And just this month we brought you news of three studies that showed that a genetic variant known to affect the metabolism of the anti-clotting drug clopidogrel (Plavix) also affects heart attack patients’ risk of a second major cardiovascular event.

Shared SNPs
Sometimes multiple conditions strike the same person or run in families. Several studies published this year showed that shared genetic risk factors may be part of the reason why.

  • Obesity is a known risk factor for many cancers. Researchers found that a variant of adiponectin, a hormone released by fat cells, can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Other researchers found variants that affect the risk of developing both type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, two autoimmune diseases that tend to cluster together. One of these shared variants is also associated with HIV resistance.
  • Finally, a report published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that a single genetic variant can make a person prone to greater indulgence in both smoking and drinking.

SNPs Associated with Risk Factors for Disease
Several studies this year looked beyond disease itself and instead found associations between SNPs and traits known to be risk factors for disease.

  • One study found an association between several SNPs and fasting plasma glucose, a measure of how well a person’s body can control blood sugar levels – a process that goes awry in diabetes.
  • Another research group reported SNPs associated with glycated hemoglobin levels, a measure of long-term blood sugar control and another factor associated with the risk of developing diabetes.
  • The findings of three papers published in Nature Genetics roughly doubled the number of SNPs associated with blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, important risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • And finally, in a study that looked at behavior instead of metabolic markers, researchers found that a variant in the FTO gene known to increase the risk for obesity affects food choices in children, pushing them towards foods denser in calories.

  • Jeff Monaghan

    2008 at The Spittoon has truly been fascinating to follow. On my wish list for 2009 is finally some proof that sexual preference is genetic so we can all move on from this ridiculous argument that its a choice.

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