Genome-Wide Association Studies () What is a genome-wide association study? A genome-wide association study is an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease. Once new genetic associations are identified, researchers can use the information to develop better strategies to detect, treat and prevent the disease. Such studies are particularly useful in finding genetic variations that contribute to common, complex diseases, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illnesses. Why are such studies possible now? With the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the International HapMap Project in 2005, researchers now have a set of research tools that make it possible to find the genetic contributions to common diseases. The tools include computerized databases that contain the reference human genome sequence, a map of human genetic variation and a set of new technologies that can quickly and accurately analyze whole-genome samples for genetic variations that contribute to the onset of a disease. How will genome-wide association studies benefit human health? The impact on medical care from genome-wide association studies could potentially be substantial. Such research is laying the groundwork for the era of personalized medicine, in which the current one size-fits- all approach to medical care will give way to more customized strategies. In the future, after improvements are made in the cost and efficiency of genome-wide scans and other innovative technologies, health professionals will be able to use such tools to provide patients with individualized information about their risks of developing certain diseases. The information will enable
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