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1.  Asthma-susceptibility variants identified using probands in case-control and family-based analyses 
BMC Medical Genetics  2010;11:122.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease whose genetic basis has been explored for over two decades, most recently via genome-wide association studies. We sought to find asthma-susceptibility variants by using probands from a single population in both family-based and case-control association designs.
We used probands from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) in two primary genome-wide association study designs: (1) probands were combined with publicly available population controls in a case-control design, and (2) probands and their parents were used in a family-based design. We followed a two-stage replication process utilizing three independent populations to validate our primary findings.
We found that single nucleotide polymorphisms with similar case-control and family-based association results were more likely to replicate in the independent populations, than those with the smallest p-values in either the case-control or family-based design alone. The single nucleotide polymorphism that showed the strongest evidence for association to asthma was rs17572584, which replicated in 2/3 independent populations with an overall p-value among replication populations of 3.5E-05. This variant is near a gene that encodes an enzyme that has been implicated to act coordinately with modulators of Th2 cell differentiation and is expressed in human lung.
Our results suggest that using probands from family-based studies in case-control designs, and combining results of both family-based and case-control approaches, may be a way to augment our ability to find SNPs associated with asthma and other complex diseases.
PMCID: PMC2927535  PMID: 20698975
2.  Diversity of the gut microbiota and eczema in early life 
A modest number of prospective studies of the composition of the intestinal microbiota and eczema in early life have yielded conflicting results.
To examine the relationship between the bacterial diversity of the gut and the development of eczema in early life by methods other than stool culture.
Fecal samples were collected from 21 infants at 1 and 4 months of life. Nine infants were diagnosed with eczema by the age of 6 months (cases) and 12 infants were not (controls). After conducting denaturating gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of stool samples, we compared the microbial diversity of cases and controls using the number of electrophoretic bands and the Shannon index of diversity (H') as indicators.
Control subjects had significantly greater fecal microbial diversity than children with eczema at ages 1 (mean H' for controls = 0.75 vs. 0.53 for cases, P = 0.01) and 4 months (mean H' for controls = 0.92 vs. 0.59 for cases, P = 0.02). The increase in diversity from 1 to 4 months of age was significant in controls (P = 0.04) but not in children who developed eczema by 6 months of age (P = 0.32).
Our findings suggest that reduced microbial diversity is associated with the development of eczema in early life.
PMCID: PMC2562383  PMID: 18808715
3.  The Association of a SNP Upstream of INSIG2 with Body Mass Index is Reproduced in Several but Not All Cohorts 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(4):e61.
A SNP upstream of the INSIG2 gene, rs7566605, was recently found to be associated with obesity as measured by body mass index (BMI) by Herbert and colleagues. The association between increased BMI and homozygosity for the minor allele was first observed in data from a genome-wide association scan of 86,604 SNPs in 923 related individuals from the Framingham Heart Study offspring cohort. The association was reproduced in four additional cohorts, but was not seen in a fifth cohort. To further assess the general reproducibility of this association, we genotyped rs7566605 in nine large cohorts from eight populations across multiple ethnicities (total n = 16,969). We tested this variant for association with BMI in each sample under a recessive model using family-based, population-based, and case-control designs. We observed a significant (p < 0.05) association in five cohorts but saw no association in three other cohorts. There was variability in the strength of association evidence across examination cycles in longitudinal data from unrelated individuals in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort. A combined analysis revealed significant independent validation of this association in both unrelated (p = 0.046) and family-based (p = 0.004) samples. The estimated risk conferred by this allele is small, and could easily be masked by small sample size, population stratification, or other confounders. These validation studies suggest that the original association is less likely to be spurious, but the failure to observe an association in every data set suggests that the effect of SNP rs7566605 on BMI may be heterogeneous across population samples.
Author Summary
Obesity is an epidemic in the United States of America and developing world, portending an epidemic of related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. While diet and lifestyle contribute to obesity, half of the population variation in body mass index, a common measure of obesity, is determined by inherited factors. Many studies have reported that common sequence variants in genes are associated with an increased risk for obesity, yet most of these are not reproducible in other study cohorts, suggesting that some are false. Recently, Herbert et al. reported a slightly increased risk of obesity for people carrying two copies of the minor allele at a common variant near INSIG2. We present our attempts to further evaluate this potential association with obesity in additional populations. We find evidence of increased risk of obesity for people carrying two copies of the minor allele in five out of nine cohorts tested, using both family- and population-based testing. We indicate possible reasons for the varied results, with the hope of encouraging a combined analysis across study cohorts to more precisely define the effect of this INSIG2 gene variant.
PMCID: PMC1857727  PMID: 17465681
4.  Mode of delivery and cord blood cytokines: a birth cohort study 
The mechanisms for the association between birth by cesarean section and atopy and asthma are largely unknown.
To examine whether cesarean section results in neonatal secretion of cytokines that are associated with increased risk of atopy and/or asthma in childhood. To examine whether the association between mode of delivery and neonatal immune responses is explained by exposure to the maternal gut flora (a marker of the vaginal flora).
CBMCs were isolated from 37 neonates at delivery, and secretion of IL-13, IFN-γ, and IL-10 (at baseline and after stimulation with antigens [dust mite and cat dander allergens, phytohemagglutinin, and lipopolysaccharide]) was quantified by ELISA. Total and specific microbes were quantified in maternal stool. The relation between mode of delivery and cord blood cytokines was examined by linear regression. The relation between maternal stool microbes and cord blood cytokines was examined by Spearman's correlation coefficients.
Cesarean section was associated with increased levels of IL-13 and IFN-γ. In multivariate analyses, cesarean section was associated with an increment of 79.4 pg/ml in secretion of IL-13 by CBMCs after stimulation with dust mite allergen (P < 0.001). Among children born by vaginal delivery, gram-positive anaerobes and total anaerobes in maternal stool were positively correlated with levels of IL-10, and gram-negative aerobic bacteria in maternal stool were negatively correlated with levels of IL-13 and IFN-γ.
Cesarean section is associated with increased levels of IL-13 and IFN-γ, perhaps because of lack of labor and/or reduced exposure to specific microbes (e.g., gram-positive anaerobes) at birth.
PMCID: PMC1592116  PMID: 17002791

Results 1-4 (4)