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Save the date: MiRNetAD Research Symposium on Dec 1, 2021

On December 21, 2021, LIGA will co-host the MiRNetAD Resarch Symposium on “MicroRNA Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease: Results from the MiRNetAD Project”. MiRNetAD is a collaborative research project between LIGA and the group of Prof. L.Q. Zhu from Wuhan, China, to explore the role of microRNAs in Alzheimer’s disease (visit this link for more details). The project’s first funding phase comes to an end in November, 2021, and we would like to take this opportunity of sharing some of the most exciting results with the scientific community. In addition to talks by MiRNetAD researchers, we are happy to report the participation of several high-profile keynote speakers, which will provide their respective views and results on the topic. The DRAFT-AGENDA for this 1-day symposium can be found here. Save the date!

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GWAS on educational attainment in more than 1 million individuals

A new genome-wide association study (GWAS) investigated the genetics of educational attainment in over 1 million individuals, including 2,000 from the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) contributed by our group. The study represents one of the largest GWAS ever performed to date and identified nearly 1,300 independent lead SNPs to show genome-wide significant association with education. Many of the identified variants are located in genes involved in brain-development processes and neuron-to-neuron communication. Polygenic analyses suggest that up to 13% of the variance underlying inter-individual differences in educational attainment can now be explained by these data, more than explained by household income but less than by parental educational attainment. The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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First ever field synopsis of genetic association studies in dystonia

Researchers from LIGA together with two colleagues from the Institute of Neurogenetics this month published the first ever field synopsis for genetic association studies in dystonia. The study, led by LIGA PhD student Olena Ohlei, aimed at separating the wheat from the chaff for genetic association results in datasets of isolated dystonia. To this end, we scrutinized more than 3,500 published articles resulting in the inclusion of 42 independent publications allowing 134 meta-analyses on 45 variants across 17 genes. While subsequently performed meta-analyses pinpointed several association signals with variants in TOR1A, DRD1, and ARSG, no single variant displayed compelling association with dystonia in the available data highlighting the need for additional large-scale studies. The publication was part of an ongoing DFG-funded project led by Lars Bertram and Jeanette Erdmann at the Institute of Cardiogenetics. The Ohlei et al paper is now published in the Journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders (after having been posted on bioRxiv prior to peer-review).

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Genome-wide study pinpoints 148 loci for cognitive function

Much like many other human phenotypes, cognitive function is a highly polygenic trait. In the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) performed to date, our colleagues Gail Davies and Ian Deary at University of Edinburgh spearheaded analyses on over 300,000 individuals (including ~2000 from the Berlin Aging Study II, co-led by LIGA investigators) identifying nearly 150 independent genetic loci associated with cognitive function, many of which had not been known previously. Within the novel genetic loci are DNA variants associated with neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diesease), physical and psychiatric illnesses, and brain structure. The results of this study shed important new light on the inborn factors contributing to cognitive (dys-)function in humans. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Systematic meta-analyses identify differentially expressed microRNAs in Parkinson’s disease

The aim of this study was to identify microRNAs that show consistent differential expression across all published expression studies in Parkinson’s disease (PD). To this end, we performed a systematic literature search on microRNA expression studies in PD and meta-analyzed the extracted data. We identified several microRNAs that showed highly significant differential expression in PD blood and brain. Future studies need to assess the possible role of these miRNAs in PD pathogenesis and progression as well as the utility as biomarkers for diagnosis, progression or prediction of PD. The study was published as pre-print on bioRxiv.

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New genes identified for human longevity

Elucidating factors that influence human longevity is of great interest to a number of disciplines in medicine and biology. In this study, LIGA contributed genome-wide data from the Berlin Aging Study II to a meta-analysis using parental life span in >600000 individuals as outcome measure. We identified associations at HLA-DQA/DRB1 and LPA and found that genetic variants that increase educational attainment positively affects lifespan whereas increasing BMI showed negative effects. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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