Genetics of complex human diseases: genome screening, association studies and fine mapping

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Positional cloning has been applied successfully to many Mendelian disorders. Because of the public health significance, there is strong interest in mapping susceptibility genes for common disorders, such as asthma and allergy, that have a genetic component. Genome-wide screening has been very useful in detecting regions of the genome likely to contain susceptibility genes. There are multiple chromosomal regions implicated in asthma and now the difficult process of finding the genes and relevant mutations is underway. Two approaches that are being utilized are those of association studies in candidate genes, and haplotype sharing or identical by descent (IBD) mapping. Although these are useful approaches, it is important to realize the strengths and limitations of each. The level of significance needed for an initial study or a replication study should be considered in light of the prior evidence for studying a specific gene polymorphism. Haplotype-sharing approaches, although difficult to use in outbred heterogeneous populations, may provide important insight into fine mapping and gene localization.

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