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1.  Association of sex steroids, gonadotropins, and their trajectories with clinical cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in elderly men from the Framingham Heart Study 
Clinical endocrinology  2013;78(4):629-634.
Background
Emerging data from longitudinal studies suggests that low sex steroid concentrations in men are associated with increased cardiovascular risk and mortality. The impact of longitudinal trajectory patterns from serial sex steroid and gonadotropin measurements on the observed associations is unknown to date.
Methods
We prospectively evaluated 254 elderly men (mean age: 75.5 years) of the Framingham Heart Study with up to four serial measurements of serum total testosterone (TT), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and total estradiol (EST); and constructed age- and multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazard regression models relating baseline hormone concentrations and their mean, slope, and variation over time (modelled as continuous and categorized into quartiles) to the incidence of clinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality at 5-years and 10-years of follow-up.
Results
We observed no association between baseline concentrations of sex steroids, gonadotropins, and their trajectories with incident clinical CVD over 5-years and 10-years follow-up, respectively. Although higher baseline TT concentrations were associated with lower mortality risk at 5-years (hazard ratio per quartile increment, 0.74; 95% confidence interval, 0.56 – 0.98), correction for multiple statistical testing (p <0.005) rendered this association statistically non-significant. Repeat analyses at the 10-year follow-up time point also demonstrated no significant association between sex steroids, gonadotropins, or their trajectories and mortality.
Conclusion
Investigating longitudinal trajectory patterns of serial sex steroid and gonadotropin measurements, the present study found no consistent associations with incident clinical CVD and all-cause mortality risk in elderly men in the community.
doi:10.1111/cen.12013
PMCID: PMC4161203  PMID: 22901104
sex steroids; gonadotropins; testosterone; men; cardiovascular disease; trajectories; longitudinal; Framingham Heart Study
2.  Association of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with Chronic Kidney Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001680.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Giovanni Musso and colleagues examine the association between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and chronic kidney disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a frequent, under-recognized condition and a risk factor for renal failure and cardiovascular disease. Increasing evidence connects non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to CKD. We conducted a meta-analysis to determine whether the presence and severity of NAFLD are associated with the presence and severity of CKD.
Methods and Findings
English and non-English articles from international online databases from 1980 through January 31, 2014 were searched. Observational studies assessing NAFLD by histology, imaging, or biochemistry and defining CKD as either estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) <60 ml/min/1.73 m2 or proteinuria were included. Two reviewers extracted studies independently and in duplicate. Individual participant data (IPD) were solicited from all selected studies. Studies providing IPD were combined with studies providing only aggregate data with the two-stage method. Main outcomes were pooled using random-effects models. Sensitivity and subgroup analyses were used to explore sources of heterogeneity and the effect of potential confounders. The influences of age, whole-body/abdominal obesity, homeostasis model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), and duration of follow-up on effect estimates were assessed by meta-regression. Thirty-three studies (63,902 participants, 16 population-based and 17 hospital-based, 20 cross-sectional, and 13 longitudinal) were included. For 20 studies (61% of included studies, 11 cross-sectional and nine longitudinal, 29,282 participants), we obtained IPD. NAFLD was associated with an increased risk of prevalent (odds ratio [OR] 2.12, 95% CI 1.69–2.66) and incident (hazard ratio [HR] 1.79, 95% CI 1.65–1.95) CKD. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) was associated with a higher prevalence (OR 2.53, 95% CI 1.58–4.05) and incidence (HR 2.12, 95% CI 1.42–3.17) of CKD than simple steatosis. Advanced fibrosis was associated with a higher prevalence (OR 5.20, 95% CI 3.14–8.61) and incidence (HR 3.29, 95% CI 2.30–4.71) of CKD than non-advanced fibrosis. In all analyses, the magnitude and direction of effects remained unaffected by diabetes status, after adjustment for other risk factors, and in other subgroup and meta-regression analyses. In cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, the severity of NAFLD was positively associated with CKD stages. Limitations of analysis are the relatively small size of studies utilizing liver histology and the suboptimal sensitivity of ultrasound and biochemistry for NAFLD detection in population-based studies.
Conclusion
The presence and severity of NAFLD are associated with an increased risk and severity of CKD.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Chronic kidney disease (CKD)—the gradual loss of kidney function—is becoming increasingly common. In the US, for example, more than 10% of the adult population (about 26 million people) and more than 25% of individuals older than 65 years have CKD. Throughout life, the kidneys perform the essential task of filtering waste products (from the normal breakdown of tissues and from food) and excess water from the blood to make urine. CKD gradually destroys the kidneys' filtration units, the rate of blood filtration decreases, and dangerous amounts of waste products build up in the blood. Symptoms of CKD, which rarely occur until the disease is very advanced, include tiredness, swollen feet, and frequent urination, particularly at night. There is no cure for CKD, but progression of the disease can be slowed by controlling high blood pressure and diabetes (two risk factors for CKD), and by adopting a healthy lifestyle. The same interventions also reduce the chances of CKD developing in the first place.
Why Was This Study Done?
CKD is associated with an increased risk of end-stage renal (kidney) disease and of cardiovascular disease. These life-threatening complications are potentially preventable through early identification and treatment of CKD. Because early recognition of CKD has the potential to reduce its health-related burden, the search is on for new modifiable risk factors for CKD. One possible new risk factor is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which, like CKD is becoming increasingly common. Healthy livers contain little or no fat but, in the US, 30% of the general adult population and up to 70% of patients who are obese or have diabetes have some degree of NAFLD, which ranges in severity from simple fatty liver (steatosis), through non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), to NASH with fibrosis (scarring of the liver) and finally cirrhosis (extensive scarring). In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers investigate whether NAFLD is a risk factor for CKD by looking for an association between the two conditions. A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria, meta-analysis uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 33 studies that assessed NAFLD and CKD in nearly 64,000 participants, including 20 cross-sectional studies in which participants were assessed for NAFLD and CKD at a single time point and 13 longitudinal studies in which participants were assessed for NAFLD and then followed up to see whether they subsequently developed CKD. Meta-analysis of the data from the cross-sectional studies indicated that NAFLD was associated with a 2-fold increased risk of prevalent (pre-existing) CKD (an odds ratio [OR]of 2.12; an OR indicates the chance that an outcome will occur given a particular exposure, compared to the chance of the outcome occurring in the absence of that exposure). Meta-analysis of data from the longitudinal studies indicated that NAFLD was associated with a nearly 2-fold increased risk of incident (new) CKD (a hazard ratio [HR] of 1.79; an HR indicates often a particular event happens in one group compared to how often it happens in another group, over time). NASH was associated with a higher prevalence and incidence of CKD than simple steatosis. Similarly, advanced fibrosis was associated with a higher prevalence and incidence of CKD than non-advanced fibrosis.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that NAFLD is associated with an increased prevalence and incidence of CKD and that increased severity of liver disease is associated with an increased risk and severity of CKD. Because these associations persist after allowing for established risk factors for CKD, these findings identify NAFLD as an independent CKD risk factor. Certain aspects of the studies included in this meta-analysis (for example, only a few studies used biopsies to diagnose NAFLD; most used less sensitive tests that may have misclassified some individuals with NAFLD as normal) and the methods used in the meta-analysis may limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that individuals with NAFLD should be screened for CKD even in the absence of other risk factors for the disease, and that better treatment of NAFLD may help to prevent CKD.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001680.
The US National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse provides information about all aspects of kidney disease; the US National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse provides information about non-alcoholic liver disease
The US National Kidney Disease Education Program provides resources to help improve the understanding, detection, and management of kidney disease (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients on chronic kidney disease, including some personal stories, and information on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The US National Kidney Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, provides information about chronic kidney disease (in English and Spanish)
The not-for-profit UK National Kidney Federation provides support and information for patients with kidney disease and for their carers
The British Liver Trust, a not-for-profit organization, provides information about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, including a patient story
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001680
PMCID: PMC4106719  PMID: 25050550
3.  Testosterone, Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin and the Metabolic Syndrome in Men: An Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100409.
Background
Low total testosterone (TT) and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) concentrations have been associated with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in men, but the reported strength of association varies considerably.
Objectives
We aimed to investigate whether associations differ across specific subgroups (according to age and body mass index (BMI)) and individual MetS components.
Data sources
Two previously published meta-analyses including an updated systematic search in PubMed and EMBASE.
Study Eligibility Criteria
Cross-sectional or prospective observational studies with data on TT and/or SHBG concentrations in combination with MetS in men.
Methods
We conducted an individual participant data meta-analysis of 20 observational studies. Mixed effects models were used to assess cross-sectional and prospective associations of TT, SHBG and free testosterone (FT) with MetS and its individual components. Multivariable adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated and effect modification by age and BMI was studied.
Results
Men with low concentrations of TT, SHBG or FT were more likely to have prevalent MetS (ORs per quartile decrease were 1.69 (95% CI 1.60-1.77), 1.73 (95% CI 1.62-1.85) and 1.46 (95% CI 1.36-1.57) for TT, SHBG and FT, respectively) and incident MetS (HRs per quartile decrease were 1.25 (95% CI 1.16-1.36), 1.44 (95% 1.30-1.60) and 1.14 (95% 1.01-1.28) for TT, SHBG and FT, respectively). Overall, the magnitude of associations was largest in non-overweight men and varied across individual components: stronger associations were observed with hypertriglyceridemia, abdominal obesity and hyperglycaemia and associations were weakest for hypertension.
Conclusions
Associations of testosterone and SHBG with MetS vary according to BMI and individual MetS components. These findings provide further insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms linking low testosterone and SHBG concentrations to cardiometabolic risk.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100409
PMCID: PMC4096400  PMID: 25019163
4.  Cohort profile: Greifswald approach to individualized medicine (GANI_MED) 
Background
Individualized Medicine aims at providing optimal treatment for an individual patient at a given time based on his specific genetic and molecular characteristics. This requires excellent clinical stratification of patients as well as the availability of genomic data and biomarkers as prerequisites for the development of novel diagnostic tools and therapeutic strategies. The University Medicine Greifswald, Germany, has launched the “Greifswald Approach to Individualized Medicine” (GANI_MED) project to address major challenges of Individualized Medicine. Herein, we describe the implementation of the scientific and clinical infrastructure that allows future translation of findings relevant to Individualized Medicine into clinical practice.
Methods/design
Clinical patient cohorts (N > 5,000) with an emphasis on metabolic and cardiovascular diseases are being established following a standardized protocol for the assessment of medical history, laboratory biomarkers, and the collection of various biosamples for bio-banking purposes. A multi-omics based biomarker assessment including genome-wide genotyping, transcriptome, metabolome, and proteome analyses complements the multi-level approach of GANI_MED. Comparisons with the general background population as characterized by our Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP) are performed. A central data management structure has been implemented to capture and integrate all relevant clinical data for research purposes. Ethical research projects on informed consent procedures, reporting of incidental findings, and economic evaluations were launched in parallel.
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-12-144
PMCID: PMC4040487  PMID: 24886498
Personalized Medicine; Individualized Medicine; Epidemiology
5.  Clinical correlates of sex steroids and gonadotropins in men over the late adulthood : the Framingham Heart Study 
Background
Low serum concentrations of sex steroids and gonadotropins in men have been associated with increased cardiometabolic risk and mortality, but the clinical correlates of these hormones in men over the late adulthood are less clearly understood.
Methods
We analyzed up to five serial measurements of total testosterone (TT), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and total estradiol (EST) in older men in the original cohort of the Framingham Heart Study to determine the short- (2-years; 1,165 person-observations in 528 individuals) and long-term (up to 10-years follow-up; 2,520 person-observations in 835 individuals with mean baseline age: 71.2 years) clinical correlates of these sex steroids and gonadotropins using multilevel modelling and Generalized Estimating Equations.
Results
Age, body mass index, and pre-existing type 2 diabetes were inversely related to long-term TT concentrations, whereas higher systolic blood pressure showed a positive association. Furthermore, age and pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) were inversely and HDL cholesterol concentrations positively associated with long-term DHEAS concentrations. Analyses of short-term changes revealed age was inversely related to DHEAS, but positively related to FSH and LH concentrations.
Conclusion
Our community-based study identified modifiable correlates of decreasing TT and DHEAS concentrations in elderly men, suggesting that maintenance of a low CVD risk factor burden may mitigate the age-related decline of these hormones over the late adulthood.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2605.2012.01285.x
PMCID: PMC3434249  PMID: 22640232
sex steroids; gonadotropins; testosterone; aging male; Framingham Heart Study
6.  Inverse Association Between Serum Free Thyroxine Levels and Hepatic Steatosis: Results from the Study of Health in Pomerania 
Thyroid  2012;22(6):568-574.
Background
Associations between thyroid function and hepatic steatosis defined by enzymatic and sonographic criteria are largely unknown in the general population. Thus, the aim of the present study was to investigate the association between thyroid function tests and sonographic as well as enzymatic criteria of liver status in a large population-based study, the Study of Health in Germany (SHIP).
Methods
Data from 3661 SHIP participants without a self-reported history of thyroid or liver disease were analyzed. Hepatic steatosis was defined as the presence of a hyperechogenic ultrasound pattern of the liver and increased serum alanine transferase concentrations. Serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free triiodothyronine (FT3), and free thyroxine (FT4) concentrations were associated with hepatic steatosis using multinomial regression models adjusted for sex, age, physical activity, alcohol consumption, waist circumference, and food intake pattern.
Results
We detected no consistent association of serum TSH and FT3 concentrations with hepatic steatosis. In contrast, serum FT4 concentrations were inversely associated with hepatic steatosis in men (odds ratio (OR)=0.04 [95% confidence interval (CI)=0.01; 0.17]) and women (OR=0.06 [95% CI=0.01; 0.42]).
Conclusions
Results from the present cross-sectional study suggest that low FT4 concentrations are associated with hepatic steatosis. Longitudinal and intervention studies are warranted to investigate whether hypothyroidism increases the risk of hepatic steatosis or vice versa.
doi:10.1089/thy.2011.0279
PMCID: PMC3358110  PMID: 22574630
7.  Serum prolactin concentrations as risk factor of metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes? 
Background
To investigate potential associations of serum prolactin concentration (PRL) with metabolic syndrome (MetS) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), previously observed in small and selected study samples, in a large population-based cohort.
Methods
Data from 3,993 individuals (2,027 women) aged 20-79 years from the population-based Study of Health of Pomerania (SHIP) were used to analyse cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of PRL with MetS and T2DM risk in age- and multivariable-adjusted Poisson regression models. PRL were log-transformed and modelled as continuous (per standard deviation (SD) increase) and categorical predictor (sex-specific quartiles) variable, separately for men and woman.
Results
Cross-sectional analyses showed an inverse association between low PRL concentrations and prevalent T2DM risk in men and women after multivariable-adjustment (men: Q1 vs. Q4: relative risk (RR), 1.55; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.13 – 2.14; women: Q1 vs. Q4: RR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.10 – 2.62). Likewise, higher PRL concentrations were associated with significantly lower T2DM risk (RR per SD increase in log-PRL: 0.83; 95% CI, 0.72 – 0.95 in men, and 0.84; 95% CI, 0.71 – 0.98 in women, respectively). An inverse association between PRL and MetS risk was not retained after multivariable adjustment. Longitudinal analyses yielded no association of PRL with incident MetS or T2DM.
Conclusion
The present study is the first large population-based study reporting a cross-sectional inverse association between PRL and prevalent T2DM in both genders. But the absent longitudinal associations do not support a causal role of PRL as a risk factor of incident MetS or T2DM.
doi:10.1186/1472-6823-13-12
PMCID: PMC3614874  PMID: 23517652
8.  A SULT2A1 genetic variant identified by GWAS as associated with low serum DHEAS does not impact on the actual DHEA/DHEAS ratio 
DHEA is the major precursor of human sex steroid synthesis and is inactivated via sulfonation to DHEAS. A previous genome-wide association study related the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2637125, located near the coding region of DHEA sulfotransferase, SULT2A1, to serum DHEAS concentrations. However, the functional relevance of this SNP with regard to DHEA sulfonation is unknown. Using data from 3300 participants of the population-based cohort Study of Health in Pomerania, we identified 43 individuals being homozygote for the minor allele of the SNP rs2637125 (AA) and selected two sex- and age-matched individuals with AG and GG genotype (n=172) respectively. Steroid analysis including measurement of serum DHEA and DHEAS was carried out by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, employing steroid oxime analysis for enhancing the sensitivity of DHEA detection. We applied quantile regression models to compare median hormone levels across SULT2A1 genotypes. Median comparisons by SULT2A1 genotype (AA vs AG and GG genotypes respectively) showed no differences in the considered hormones including DHEAS, DHEA, androstenedione, as well as cortisol and cortisone concentrations. SULT2A1 genotype also had no effect on the DHEA/DHEAS ratio. Sex-stratified analyses, as well as alternative use of the SULT2A1 SNP rs182420, yielded similar negative results. Genetic variants of SULT2A1 do not appear to have an effect on individual DHEA and DHEAS concentrations or the DHEA/DHEAS ratio as a marker of DHEA sulfonation capacity.
doi:10.1530/JME-12-0185
PMCID: PMC3535724  PMID: 23132913
DHEAS; steroids; genome-wide association study; genetics; epidemiology
9.  A Genome-Wide Association Meta-Analysis of Circulating Sex Hormone–Binding Globulin Reveals Multiple Loci Implicated in Sex Steroid Hormone Regulation 
Coviello, Andrea D. | Haring, Robin | Wellons, Melissa | Vaidya, Dhananjay | Lehtimäki, Terho | Keildson, Sarah | Lunetta, Kathryn L. | He, Chunyan | Fornage, Myriam | Lagou, Vasiliki | Mangino, Massimo | Onland-Moret, N. Charlotte | Chen, Brian | Eriksson, Joel | Garcia, Melissa | Liu, Yong Mei | Koster, Annemarie | Lohman, Kurt | Lyytikäinen, Leo-Pekka | Petersen, Ann-Kristin | Prescott, Jennifer | Stolk, Lisette | Vandenput, Liesbeth | Wood, Andrew R. | Zhuang, Wei Vivian | Ruokonen, Aimo | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Pouta, Anneli | Bandinelli, Stefania | Biffar, Reiner | Brabant, Georg | Cox, David G. | Chen, Yuhui | Cummings, Steven | Ferrucci, Luigi | Gunter, Marc J. | Hankinson, Susan E. | Martikainen, Hannu | Hofman, Albert | Homuth, Georg | Illig, Thomas | Jansson, John-Olov | Johnson, Andrew D. | Karasik, David | Karlsson, Magnus | Kettunen, Johannes | Kiel, Douglas P. | Kraft, Peter | Liu, Jingmin | Ljunggren, Östen | Lorentzon, Mattias | Maggio, Marcello | Markus, Marcello R. P. | Mellström, Dan | Miljkovic, Iva | Mirel, Daniel | Nelson, Sarah | Morin Papunen, Laure | Peeters, Petra H. M. | Prokopenko, Inga | Raffel, Leslie | Reincke, Martin | Reiner, Alex P. | Rexrode, Kathryn | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Schwartz, Stephen M. | Siscovick, David | Soranzo, Nicole | Stöckl, Doris | Tworoger, Shelley | Uitterlinden, André G. | van Gils, Carla H. | Vasan, Ramachandran S. | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Zhai, Guangju | Bhasin, Shalender | Bidlingmaier, Martin | Chanock, Stephen J. | De Vivo, Immaculata | Harris, Tamara B. | Hunter, David J. | Kähönen, Mika | Liu, Simin | Ouyang, Pamela | Spector, Tim D. | van der Schouw, Yvonne T. | Viikari, Jorma | Wallaschofski, Henri | McCarthy, Mark I. | Frayling, Timothy M. | Murray, Anna | Franks, Steve | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | de Jong, Frank H. | Raitakari, Olli | Teumer, Alexander | Ohlsson, Claes | Murabito, Joanne M. | Perry, John R. B.
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(7):e1002805.
Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is a glycoprotein responsible for the transport and biologic availability of sex steroid hormones, primarily testosterone and estradiol. SHBG has been associated with chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes (T2D) and with hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis of 21,791 individuals from 10 epidemiologic studies and validated these findings in 7,046 individuals in an additional six studies. We identified twelve genomic regions (SNPs) associated with circulating SHBG concentrations. Loci near the identified SNPs included SHBG (rs12150660, 17p13.1, p = 1.8×10−106), PRMT6 (rs17496332, 1p13.3, p = 1.4×10−11), GCKR (rs780093, 2p23.3, p = 2.2×10−16), ZBTB10 (rs440837, 8q21.13, p = 3.4×10−09), JMJD1C (rs7910927, 10q21.3, p = 6.1×10−35), SLCO1B1 (rs4149056, 12p12.1, p = 1.9×10−08), NR2F2 (rs8023580, 15q26.2, p = 8.3×10−12), ZNF652 (rs2411984, 17q21.32, p = 3.5×10−14), TDGF3 (rs1573036, Xq22.3, p = 4.1×10−14), LHCGR (rs10454142, 2p16.3, p = 1.3×10−07), BAIAP2L1 (rs3779195, 7q21.3, p = 2.7×10−08), and UGT2B15 (rs293428, 4q13.2, p = 5.5×10−06). These genes encompass multiple biologic pathways, including hepatic function, lipid metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism and T2D, androgen and estrogen receptor function, epigenetic effects, and the biology of sex steroid hormone-responsive cancers including breast and prostate cancer. We found evidence of sex-differentiated genetic influences on SHBG. In a sex-specific GWAS, the loci 4q13.2-UGT2B15 was significant in men only (men p = 2.5×10−08, women p = 0.66, heterogeneity p = 0.003). Additionally, three loci showed strong sex-differentiated effects: 17p13.1-SHBG and Xq22.3-TDGF3 were stronger in men, whereas 8q21.12-ZBTB10 was stronger in women. Conditional analyses identified additional signals at the SHBG gene that together almost double the proportion of variance explained at the locus. Using an independent study of 1,129 individuals, all SNPs identified in the overall or sex-differentiated or conditional analyses explained ∼15.6% and ∼8.4% of the genetic variation of SHBG concentrations in men and women, respectively. The evidence for sex-differentiated effects and allelic heterogeneity highlight the importance of considering these features when estimating complex trait variance.
Author Summary
Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is the key protein responsible for binding and transporting the sex steroid hormones, testosterone and estradiol, in the circulatory system. SHBG regulates their bioavailability and therefore their effects in the body. SHBG has been linked to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and to hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. SHBG concentrations are approximately 50% heritable in family studies, suggesting SHBG concentrations are under significant genetic control; yet, little is known about the specific genes that influence SHBG. We conducted a large study of the association of SHBG concentrations with markers in the human genome in ∼22,000 white men and women to determine which loci influence SHBG concentrations. Genes near the identified genomic markers in addition to the SHBG protein coding gene included PRMT6, GCKR, ZBTB10, JMJD1C, SLCO1B1, NR2F2, ZNF652, TDGF3, LHCGR, BAIAP2L1, and UGT2B15. These genes represent a wide range of biologic pathways that may relate to SHBG function and sex steroid hormone biology, including liver function, lipid metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism and type 2 diabetes, and the development and progression of sex steroid hormone-responsive cancers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002805
PMCID: PMC3400553  PMID: 22829776
10.  A Network-Based Approach to Visualize Prevalence and Progression of Metabolic Syndrome Components 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39461.
Background
The additional clinical value of clustering cardiovascular risk factors to define the metabolic syndrome (MetS) is still under debate. However, it is unclear which cardiovascular risk factors tend to cluster predominately and how individual risk factor states change over time.
Methods & Results
We used data from 3,187 individuals aged 20–79 years from the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania for a network-based approach to visualize clustered MetS risk factor states and their change over a five-year follow-up period. MetS was defined by harmonized Adult Treatment Panel III criteria, and each individual's risk factor burden was classified according to the five MetS components at baseline and follow-up. We used the map generator to depict 32 (25) different states and highlight the most important transitions between the 1,024 (322) possible states in the weighted directed network. At baseline, we found the largest fraction (19.3%) of all individuals free of any MetS risk factors and identified hypertension (15.4%) and central obesity (6.3%), as well as their combination (19.0%), as the most common MetS risk factors. Analyzing risk factor flow over the five-year follow-up, we found that most individuals remained in their risk factor state and that low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) (6.3%) was the most prominent additional risk factor beyond hypertension and central obesity. Also among individuals without any MetS risk factor at baseline, low HDL (3.5%), hypertension (2.1%), and central obesity (1.6%) were the first risk factors to manifest during follow-up.
Conclusions
We identified hypertension and central obesity as the predominant MetS risk factor cluster and low HDL concentrations as the most prominent new onset risk factor.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039461
PMCID: PMC3378536  PMID: 22724019
11.  Diving Through the “-Omics”: The Case for Deep Phenotyping and Systems Epidemiology 
Abstract
Enabled by diverse high-throughput technologies, the rapidly evolving field of “-omics sciences” offers the potential to study health and disease in breadth and depth at the human population level. We have recently linked genomics and metabolomics to present the first genome-wide association study of metabolic traits in human urine providing new insights into the functional background of chronic kidney disease. We propose systems epidemiology as a novel approach to study the complexities of human pathophysiology by integrating various population-level omic-metrics and to identify new trans-omic biomarkers.
doi:10.1089/omi.2011.0108
PMCID: PMC3339382  PMID: 22320900
12.  Genetic Determinants of Serum Testosterone Concentrations in Men 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002313.
Testosterone concentrations in men are associated with cardiovascular morbidity, osteoporosis, and mortality and are affected by age, smoking, and obesity. Because of serum testosterone's high heritability, we performed a meta-analysis of genome-wide association data in 8,938 men from seven cohorts and followed up the genome-wide significant findings in one in silico (n = 871) and two de novo replication cohorts (n = 4,620) to identify genetic loci significantly associated with serum testosterone concentration in men. All these loci were also associated with low serum testosterone concentration defined as <300 ng/dl. Two single-nucleotide polymorphisms at the sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) locus (17p13-p12) were identified as independently associated with serum testosterone concentration (rs12150660, p = 1.2×10−41 and rs6258, p = 2.3×10−22). Subjects with ≥3 risk alleles of these variants had 6.5-fold higher risk of having low serum testosterone than subjects with no risk allele. The rs5934505 polymorphism near FAM9B on the X chromosome was also associated with testosterone concentrations (p = 5.6×10−16). The rs6258 polymorphism in exon 4 of SHBG affected SHBG's affinity for binding testosterone and the measured free testosterone fraction (p<0.01). Genetic variants in the SHBG locus and on the X chromosome are associated with a substantial variation in testosterone concentrations and increased risk of low testosterone. rs6258 is the first reported SHBG polymorphism, which affects testosterone binding to SHBG and the free testosterone fraction and could therefore influence the calculation of free testosterone using law-of-mass-action equation.
Author Summary
Testosterone is the most important testicular androgen in men. Low serum testosterone concentrations are associated with cardiovascular morbidity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, and increased mortality risk. Thus, there is growing evidence that serum testosterone is a valuable biomarker of men's overall health status. Studies in male twins indicate that there is a strong heritability of serum testosterone. Here we perform a large-scale genome-wide association study to examine the effects of common genetic variants on serum testosterone concentrations. By examining 14,429 men, we show that genetic variants in the sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) locus and on the X chromosome are associated with a substantial variation in serum testosterone concentrations and increased risk of low testosterone. The reported associations may now be used in order to better understand the functional background of recently identified disease associations related to low testosterone. Importantly, we identified the first known genetic variant, which affects SHBG's affinity for binding testosterone and the free testosterone fraction and could therefore influence the calculation of free testosterone. This finding suggests that individual-based SHBG-testosterone affinity constants are required depending on the genotype of this single-nucleotide polymorphism.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002313
PMCID: PMC3188559  PMID: 21998597
13.  Self-perceived quality of life predicts mortality risk better than a multi-biomarker panel, but the combination of both does best 
Background
Associations between measures of subjective health and mortality risk have previously been shown. We assessed the impact and comparative predictive performance of a multi-biomarker panel on this association.
Methods
Data from 4,261 individuals aged 20-79 years recruited for the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania was used. During an average 9.7 year follow-up, 456 deaths (10.7%) occurred. Subjective health was assessed by SF-12 derived physical (PCS-12) and mental component summaries (MCS-12), and a single-item self-rated health (SRH) question. We implemented Cox proportional-hazards regression models to investigate the association of subjective health with mortality and to assess the impact of a combination of 10 biomarkers on this association. Variable selection procedures were used to identify a parsimonious set of subjective health measures and biomarkers, whose predictive ability was compared using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves, C-statistics, and reclassification methods.
Results
In age- and gender-adjusted Cox models, poor SRH (hazard ratio (HR), 2.07; 95% CI, 1.34-3.20) and low PCS-12 scores (lowest vs. highest quartile: HR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.31-2.33) were significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality; an association independent of various covariates and biomarkers. Furthermore, selected subjective health measures yielded a significantly higher C-statistic (0.883) compared to the selected biomarker panel (0.872), whereas a combined assessment showed the highest C-statistic (0.887) with a highly significant integrated discrimination improvement of 1.5% (p < 0.01).
Conclusion
Adding biomarker information did not affect the association of subjective health measures with mortality, but significantly improved risk stratification. Thus, a combined assessment of self-reported subjective health and measured biomarkers may be useful to identify high-risk individuals for intensified monitoring.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-103
PMCID: PMC3152941  PMID: 21749697
Health-related quality of life; multiple biomarker panel; all-cause mortality; SF-12; population-based cohort
14.  Eight Common Genetic Variants Associated with Serum DHEAS Levels Suggest a Key Role in Ageing Mechanisms 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1002025.
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) is the most abundant circulating steroid secreted by adrenal glands—yet its function is unknown. Its serum concentration declines significantly with increasing age, which has led to speculation that a relative DHEAS deficiency may contribute to the development of common age-related diseases or diminished longevity. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association data with 14,846 individuals and identified eight independent common SNPs associated with serum DHEAS concentrations. Genes at or near the identified loci include ZKSCAN5 (rs11761528; p = 3.15×10−36), SULT2A1 (rs2637125; p = 2.61×10−19), ARPC1A (rs740160; p = 1.56×10−16), TRIM4 (rs17277546; p = 4.50×10−11), BMF (rs7181230; p = 5.44×10−11), HHEX (rs2497306; p = 4.64×10−9), BCL2L11 (rs6738028; p = 1.72×10−8), and CYP2C9 (rs2185570; p = 2.29×10−8). These genes are associated with type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, actin filament assembly, drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and zinc finger proteins. Several SNPs were associated with changes in gene expression levels, and the related genes are connected to biological pathways linking DHEAS with ageing. This study provides much needed insight into the function of DHEAS.
Author Summary
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), mainly secreted by the adrenal gland, is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans. It shows a significant physiological decline after the age of 25 and diminishes about 95% by the age of 85 years, which has led to speculation that a relative DHEAS deficiency may contribute to the development of common age-related diseases or diminished longevity. Twin- and family-based studies have shown that there is a substantial genetic effect with heritability estimate of 60%, but no specific genes regulating serum DHEAS concentration have been identified to date. Here we take advantage of recent technical and methodological advances to examine the effects of common genetic variants on serum DHEAS concentrations. By examining 14,846 Caucasian individuals, we show that eight common genetic variants are associated with serum DHEAS concentrations. Genes at or near these genetic variants include BCL2L11, ARPC1A, ZKSCAN5, TRIM4, HHEX, CYP2C9, BMF, and SULT2A1. These genes have various associations with steroid hormone metabolism—co-morbidities of ageing including type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, actin filament assembly, drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and zinc finger proteins—suggesting a wider functional role for DHEAS than previously thought.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002025
PMCID: PMC3077384  PMID: 21533175
15.  Prediction of Metabolic Syndrome by Low Serum Testosterone Levels in Men 
Diabetes  2009;58(9):2027-2031.
OBJECTIVE
The aim of this analysis was to assess the prospective association of serum testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels with incident metabolic syndrome (MetS) in men.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Data were obtained from the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP), a population-based prospective cohort of adults aged 20–79 years. Analyses were conducted in 1,004 men without baseline MetS defined by National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines. Testosterone and DHEAS were categorized by age-specific quartiles and Poisson regression models with relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs were estimated.
RESULTS
After a median follow-up time of 5.0 years, 480 men (47.8%) developed MetS. Testosterone levels decreased with increasing number of MetS components. Testosterone in the lowest quartile predicted MetS (RR 1.38 [95% CI 1.13–1.69]), particularly among men aged 20–39 years (2.06 [1.29–3.29]), even after adjustment for age, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, waist circumference, self-related health, and time of blood sampling. DHEAS levels were not related to incident MetS (0.99 [0.83–1.19]).
CONCLUSIONS
Low testosterone but not DHEAS predicts development of MetS in a population-based cohort of 1,004 men aged 20–79 years. Especially in young men aged 20–39 years, results suggest low testosterone as a strong predictor for incident MetS. Assessment of testosterone in young and middle-age men may allow early interventions in the general population.
doi:10.2337/db09-0031
PMCID: PMC2731522  PMID: 19581420
16.  Thyroid function tests in patients taking thyroid medication in Germany: Results from the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP) 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:227.
Background
Studies from iodine-sufficient areas have shown that a high proportion of patients taking medication for thyroid diseases have thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels outside the reference range. Next to patient compliance, inadequate dosing adjustment resulting in under- and over-treatment of thyroid disease is a major cause of poor therapy outcomes. Using thyroid function tests, we aim to measure the proportions of subjects, who are under- or over-treated with thyroid medication in a previously iodine-deficient area.
Findings
Data from 266 subjects participating in the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP) were analysed. All subjects were taking thyroid medication. Serum TSH levels were measured using immunochemiluminescent procedures. TSH levels of < 0.27 or > 2.15 mIU/L in subjects younger than 50 years and < 0.19 or > 2.09 mIU/L in subjects 50 years and older, were defined as decreased or elevated, according to the established reference range for the specific study area. Our analysis revealed that 56 of 190 (29.5%) subjects treated with thyroxine had TSH levels outside the reference range (10.0% elevated, 19.5% decreased). Of the 31 subjects taking antithyroid drugs, 12 (38.7%) had TSH levels outside the reference range (9.7% elevated, 29.0% decreased). These proportions were lower in the 45 subjects receiving iodine supplementation (2.2% elevated, 8.9% decreased). Among the 3,974 SHIP participants not taking thyroid medication, TSH levels outside the reference range (2.8% elevated, 5.9% decreased) were less frequent.
Conclusion
In concordance with previous studies in iodine-sufficient areas, our results indicate that a considerable number of patients taking thyroid medication are either under- or over-treated. Improved monitoring of these patients' TSH levels, compared to the local reference range, is recommended.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-227
PMCID: PMC2933586  PMID: 20712884
17.  The association of serum testosterone levels and ventricular repolarization 
It is assumed that testosterone is an important regulator of gender-related differences in ventricular repolarization. Therefore, our aim was to study whether serum levels of testosterone are associated with QTc, QT and RR interval variation. Setting: two independent population-based cohort studies. Participants: 445 male participants (≥55 years) from the Rotterdam study cohort and 1,428 male participants from the study of health in Pomerania (SHIP) with an electrocardiogram who were randomly sampled for assessment of serum testosterone at baseline, after exclusion of participants with testosterone altering drugs, QTc prolonging drugs or dig(it)oxin, left ventricular hypertrophy and left and right bundle branch block. Endpoints: length of the QTc, QT and RR intervals. Analysis: linear regression model, adjusted for the two individual studies and a pooled analysis of both studies. The pooled analysis of the Rotterdam study and SHIP showed that the QTc interval gradually decreased among the tertiles (P value for trend 0.024). The third tertile of serum testosterone was associated with a lower QTc interval compared to the first tertile [−3.4 ms (−6.5; −0.3)]. However, the third tertile of serum testosterone was not associated with a lower QT interval compared to the first tertile [−0.7 ms (−3.1; 1.8)]. The RR interval gradually increased among the tertiles (P value for trend 0.002) and the third tertile of serum testosterone showed an increased RR interval compared to the first tertile [33.5 ms (12.2; 54.8)]. In the pooled analysis of two population-based studies, serum testosterone levels were not associated with the QT interval, which could be due to a lack of power. Lower QTc intervals in men with higher serum testosterone levels could be due to the association of serum testosterone with prolongation of the RR interval.
doi:10.1007/s10654-009-9406-z
PMCID: PMC2807939  PMID: 19957021
Serum testosterone; Ventricular repolarization; QTc interval; RR interval

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