Disease genes may be identified through functional, positional, and candidate gene approaches. Although extensive and often labor-intensive studies such as family linkage analysis, functional investigation of gene products and genome database searches are usually involved, thousands of human disease genes, especially for monogenic diseases with Mendelian transmission, have been identified. However, in diseases caused by more than one gene, or by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, identification of the genes is even more difficult. Common examples include atherosclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, diabetes, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. There have been conflicting reports on the roles of associated genes. Even with population-based case-control studies and new statistical methods such as the sib-ship disequilibrium test and the discordant alleles test, there is no agreement on whether α2-macroglobulin (A2M) is a gene for Alzheimer's disease. Another example is the inconsistent association between age-related macular degeneration and ATP-binding cassette transporter (ABCR). Ethnic variation causes further complications. In our investigation of LDL-receptor variants in familial hypercholesterolemia, and the trabecular meshwork inducible glucocorticoid response protein, or myocillin (TIGR-MYOC) mutation pattern in primary open angle glaucoma, we did find dissimilar results in Chinese compared to Caucasians. New information from the Human Genome Project and advancements in technologies will aid the search for and confirm identification of disease genes despite such challenges.
Copyright © 2000 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG