Thanks to the recent revolutionary genomic advances such as the International HapMap consortium, resolution of the genetic architecture of common complex traits is beginning to look hopeful. While demonstrating the feasibility of genome-wide association (GWA) studies, the pathbreaking Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) study also serves to underscore the critical importance of very large sample sizes and draws attention to potential problems, which need to be addressed as part of the study design. Even the large WTCCC study had vastly inadequate power for several of the associations reported (and confirmed) and, therefore, most of the regions harboring relevant associations may not be identified anytime soon. This chapter provides an overview of some of the key developments in the methodological approaches to genetic dissection of common complex traits. Constrained Bayesian networks are suggested as especially useful for analysis of pathway-based SNPs. Likewise, composite likelihood is suggested as a promising method for modeling complex systems. It discusses the key steps in a study design, with an emphasis on GWA studies. Potential limitations highlighted by the WTCCC GWA study are discussed, including problems associated with massive genotype imputation, analysis of pooled national samples, shared controls, and the critical role of interactions. GWA studies clearly need massive sample sizes that are only possible through genuine collaborations. After all, for common complex traits, the question is not whether we can find some pieces of the puzzle, but how large and what kind of a sample we need to (nearly) solve the genetic puzzle.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGenetic Dissection of Complex Traits
EditorsD.C. Rao, Charles Gu
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameAdvances in Genetics
ISSN (Print)0065-2660


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