Will investments in large-scale prospective cohorts and biobanks limit our ability to discover weaker, less common genetic and environmental contributors to complex diseases?

Morris W. Foster, Richard R. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Increasing the size of prospective cohorts and biobanks is one approach to discovering previously unknown contributors to complex diseases, but it may come at the price of concealing contributors that are less common across all the participants in those larger studies and of lim,iting hypothesis generation. Prospective cohorts and biobanks constitute significant, long-term investments in research infrastructure that will have ongoing consequences for opportunities in biomedical research for the foreseeable future. Thus, it is important to think about how these major additions to research infrastructure can be designed to be more productive in generating hypotheses for novel environmental contributors to complex diseases and to help identify genetic and environmental contributors that may not be common across the larger samples but are more frequent within local or ancestral subsets. Incorporating open-ended inquiries and qualitative information about local communal and ecologic contexts and the political, economic, and other social structures that affect health status and outcome will enable qualitative hypothesis generation in those localized contexts, as well as the collection of more detailed genealogic and family health history information that may be useful in disigning future studies. Using communities as building blocks for larger cohorts and biobanks presents some practical and ethical challenges but also enhances opportunities for inter-disciplinary, multilevel investigations of the multifactorial contributors to complex diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-122
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume113
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2005

Keywords

  • Biobanks
  • Communities
  • Complex disease
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Prospective cohorts
  • Qualitative methods
  • Research design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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