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  • Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Genetic Links to Smoking and Drinking

    A recent publication in Nature describes the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that investigated genes, groups of genes, and variants associated with smoking and drinking. The study encompassed a total of 3,383,199 individuals and four major clines of global ancestry.

    The researchers identified 3,823 associated variants (from 2,143 loci) with behaviors of smoking or drinking. Notable results include 39 variants associated with the age individuals began smoking, 243 with cigarettes per day, 206 with smoking cessation (former smokers), and 849 with the number of alcoholic drinks per week. The data used in this study was taken from genome-wide arrays, along with some additional data from deep whole-genome sequencing.

    Despite the study's success, the results were limited by the diversity of the participants. In particular, the polygenic risk scores specific to individuals in the European ancestry group were poor predictors among the other ancestry groups. Although multiple ancestry groups were involved in this study, only 21% were of non-European descent, and several ancestry groups were excluded.

    The authors note these shortcomings and explain that future studies will need to include more genetic diversity to increase our understanding of genetics and behavior.

    Read the original journal article here.

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