Research at Strangeways
The overarching theme of Strangeways' research is the identification
of genetic and lifestyle determinants of common disease, and their
application to prevention.
A wide range of disciplines are relevant
to this field, and the Laboratory has brought together researchers
in epidemiology, molecular genetics, bioinformatics, statistics
and public health.
This interdisciplinarity is a particular strength
of Strangeways and is, so far as we are aware, unique.
largest component of the work focuses on cancer, but there are
also research groups working on heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Much of the work revolves around the analysis of genes and other
blood-based markers, and lifestyle risk factors, in large-scale
The laboratory space at Strangeways, much of which is now in
a new University building completed in 2003, provides facilities
to process and store many thousands of blood samples from these
studies, and to allow rapid genotyping of large numbers of genetic
Another major theme is the statistical analysis of data
from epidemiological studies, and the synthesis of data from
studies worldwide to provide reliable estimates of the effects
of different factors on disease risk. Groups at Strangeways co-ordinate
such collaborations in breast and ovarian cancer, vascular disease
and in other areas.
A major focus of the research at Strangeways is the identification
of genetic variants that underlie susceptibility to common disease.
Many 'high-risk' mutations for disease have been
identified through family studies, however, such mutations are
usually very rare in the population and do not account for an appreciable
burden of disease. Much recent attention, therefore, has focussed
on the identification of commoner variants that may confer more-moderate
Such variants can be identified by studying them
in large series of diseased individuals. However, because there
are about 10 million such variants, the task of choosing the right
ones to test owes much to chance, with the result that few positive
associations have been identified.
Now, however, with improvements
in genotyping technology and the increasing catalogue of human
genetic variation, empirical 'whole genome' approaches
to the identification of disease-associated variants are fast becoming
The large population-based collections of cases and
controls that have been assembled at Strangeways will provide the
basis for such studies.
Specifically, groups at Strangeways are
now conducting a genome-wide association study in
breast cancer, which will involve genotyping over 250,000 single
nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This study is one of the first
of its kind, and was completed at the end of 2005.
The analysis and interpretation of the complex data from these
studies represent a major challenge that will also be a primary
theme at Strangeways.