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Nat Genet. 2018 Sep;50(9):1219-1224. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0183-z. Epub 2018 Aug 13.

Genome-wide polygenic scores for common diseases identify individuals with risk equivalent to monogenic mutations.

Author information

1
Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
2
Cardiology Division of the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
3
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
4
Cardiovascular Disease Initiative of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA.
5
Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. skathiresan1@mgh.harvard.edu.
6
Cardiology Division of the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. skathiresan1@mgh.harvard.edu.
7
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. skathiresan1@mgh.harvard.edu.
8
Cardiovascular Disease Initiative of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA. skathiresan1@mgh.harvard.edu.

Abstract

A key public health need is to identify individuals at high risk for a given disease to enable enhanced screening or preventive therapies. Because most common diseases have a genetic component, one important approach is to stratify individuals based on inherited DNA variation1. Proposed clinical applications have largely focused on finding carriers of rare monogenic mutations at several-fold increased risk. Although most disease risk is polygenic in nature2-5, it has not yet been possible to use polygenic predictors to identify individuals at risk comparable to monogenic mutations. Here, we develop and validate genome-wide polygenic scores for five common diseases. The approach identifies 8.0, 6.1, 3.5, 3.2, and 1.5% of the population at greater than threefold increased risk for coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and breast cancer, respectively. For coronary artery disease, this prevalence is 20-fold higher than the carrier frequency of rare monogenic mutations conferring comparable risk6. We propose that it is time to contemplate the inclusion of polygenic risk prediction in clinical care, and discuss relevant issues.

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