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1.  The eMERGE Network: A consortium of biorepositories linked to electronic medical records data for conducting genomic studies 
BMC Medical Genomics  2011;4:13.
The eMERGE (electronic MEdical Records and GEnomics) Network is an NHGRI-supported consortium of five institutions to explore the utility of DNA repositories coupled to Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems for advancing discovery in genome science. eMERGE also includes a special emphasis on the ethical, legal and social issues related to these endeavors.
The five sites are supported by an Administrative Coordinating Center. Setting of network goals is initiated by working groups: (1) Genomics, (2) Informatics, and (3) Consent & Community Consultation, which also includes active participation by investigators outside the eMERGE funded sites, and (4) Return of Results Oversight Committee. The Steering Committee, comprised of site PIs and representatives and NHGRI staff, meet three times per year, once per year with the External Scientific Panel.
Current progress
The primary site-specific phenotypes for which samples have undergone genome-wide association study (GWAS) genotyping are cataract and HDL, dementia, electrocardiographic QRS duration, peripheral arterial disease, and type 2 diabetes. A GWAS is also being undertaken for resistant hypertension in ≈2,000 additional samples identified across the network sites, to be added to data available for samples already genotyped. Funded by ARRA supplements, secondary phenotypes have been added at all sites to leverage the genotyping data, and hypothyroidism is being analyzed as a cross-network phenotype. Results are being posted in dbGaP. Other key eMERGE activities include evaluation of the issues associated with cross-site deployment of common algorithms to identify cases and controls in EMRs, data privacy of genomic and clinically-derived data, developing approaches for large-scale meta-analysis of GWAS data across five sites, and a community consultation and consent initiative at each site.
Future activities
Plans are underway to expand the network in diversity of populations and incorporation of GWAS findings into clinical care.
By combining advanced clinical informatics, genome science, and community consultation, eMERGE represents a first step in the development of data-driven approaches to incorporate genomic information into routine healthcare delivery.
PMCID: PMC3038887  PMID: 21269473
2.  Complexity in the genetic architecture of leukoaraiosis in hypertensive sibships from the GENOA Study 
BMC Medical Genomics  2009;2:16.
Subcortical white matter hyperintensity on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, referred to as leukoaraiosis, is associated with increased risk of stroke and dementia. Hypertension may contribute to leukoaraiosis by accelerating the process of arteriosclerosis involving penetrating small arteries and arterioles in the brain. Leukoaraiosis volume is highly heritable but shows significant inter-individual variability that is not predicted well by any clinical covariates (except for age) or by single SNPs.
As part of the Genetics of Microangiopathic Brain Injury (GMBI) Study, 777 individuals (74% hypertensive) underwent brain MRI and were genotyped for 1649 SNPs from genes known or hypothesized to be involved in arteriosclerosis and related pathways. We examined SNP main effects, epistatic (gene-gene) interactions, and context-dependent (gene-environment) interactions between these SNPs and covariates (including conventional and novel risk factors for arteriosclerosis) for association with leukoaraiosis volume. Three methods were used to reduce the chance of false positive associations: 1) false discovery rate (FDR) adjustment for multiple testing, 2) an internal replication design, and 3) a ten-iteration four-fold cross-validation scheme.
Four SNP main effects (in F3, KITLG, CAPN10, and MMP2), 12 SNP-covariate interactions (including interactions between KITLG and homocysteine, and between TGFB3 and both physical activity and C-reactive protein), and 173 SNP-SNP interactions were significant, replicated, and cross-validated. While a model containing the top single SNPs with main effects predicted only 3.72% of variation in leukoaraiosis in independent test samples, a multiple variable model that included the four most highly predictive SNP-SNP and SNP-covariate interactions predicted 11.83%.
These results indicate that the genetic architecture of leukoaraiosis is complex, yet predictive, when the contributions of SNP main effects are considered in combination with effects of SNP interactions with other genes and covariates.
PMCID: PMC2679055  PMID: 19351393
3.  Investigating the complex genetic architecture of ankle-brachial index, a measure of peripheral arterial disease, in non-Hispanic whites 
BMC Medical Genomics  2008;1:16.
Atherosclerotic peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects 8–10 million people in the United States and is associated with a marked impairment in quality of life and an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Noninvasive assessment of PAD is performed by measuring the ankle-brachial index (ABI). Complex traits, such as ABI, are influenced by a large array of genetic and environmental factors and their interactions. We attempted to characterize the genetic architecture of ABI by examining the main and interactive effects of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and conventional risk factors.
We applied linear regression analysis to investigate the association of 435 SNPs in 112 positional and biological candidate genes with ABI and related physiological and biochemical traits in 1046 non-Hispanic white, hypertensive participants from the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study. The main effects of each SNP, as well as SNP-covariate and SNP-SNP interactions, were assessed to investigate how they contribute to the inter-individual variation in ABI. Multivariable linear regression models were then used to assess the joint contributions of the top SNP associations and interactions to ABI after adjustment for covariates. We reduced the chance of false positives by 1) correcting for multiple testing using the false discovery rate, 2) internal replication, and 3) four-fold cross-validation.
When the results from these three procedures were combined, only two SNP main effects in NOS3, three SNP-covariate interactions (ADRB2 Gly 16 – lipoprotein(a) and SLC4A5 – diabetes interactions), and 25 SNP-SNP interactions (involving SNPs from 29 different genes) were significant, replicated, and cross-validated. Combining the top SNPs, risk factors, and their interactions into a model explained nearly 18% of variation in ABI in the sample. SNPs in six genes (ADD2, ATP6V1B1, PRKAR2B, SLC17A2, SLC22A3, and TGFB3) were also influencing triglycerides, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and lipoprotein(a) levels.
We found that candidate gene SNP main effects, SNP-covariate and SNP-SNP interactions contribute to the inter-individual variation in ABI, a marker of PAD. Our findings underscore the importance of conducting systematic investigations that consider context-dependent frameworks for developing a deeper understanding of the multidimensional genetic and environmental factors that contribute to complex diseases.
PMCID: PMC2412898  PMID: 18482449

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