Applying a new genomic technique to a large group of patients, researchers in Britain have detected DNA variations that underlie seven common diseases, discovering unexpected links between them. The variations pinpoint biological pathways underlying each of the diseases, and researchers hope that as the pathways are analyzed, new drugs and treatments will emerge. The seven common diseases are bipolar disorder, coronary artery disease, Crohn’s disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Unveiling the complex genetics of common diseases was the promised payoff of the $3 billion human genome project, completed in 2003, but progress was slow until the recent development of devices that in a single operation can read the DNA sequence at up to 500,000 points across an individual’s genome. With the devices, called chips, researchers can compare large numbers of patients with healthy individuals, looking for points of differences in their genomes that may be associated with disease.
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