Scientists in Korea have carried out the first large screen of health-related genes in an East Asian population. Their study, reported online this week in Nature Genetics, found that gene variants associated with metabolic traits related to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis are partly shared between European and Asian populations, but the study also found new gene variants that either confer health risks specific to Asian ancestry or which show greater effects in combination with environmental factors prevalent in Asia.
While the majority of association studies have been carried out in European populations, Hyung-Lae Kim and colleagues launched their large genome-wide association study in population based cohorts recruited in Korea. Genetic variants previously associated with common traits such as height and body mass index overlapped in both European and Asian populations. However, several new variants in previously unreported loci were identified specifically in East Asians in association with biomedical traits such as blood pressure, bone density, pulse rate, and obesity.