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Springer, Diabetologia, 12(63), p. 2521-2532, 2020

DOI: 10.1007/s00125-020-05246-w



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Next-generation epidemiology: the role of high-resolution molecular phenotyping in diabetes research

Journal article published in 2020 by Paul W. Franks, Hugo Pomares-Millan ORCID
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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AbstractEpidemiologists have for many decades reported on the patterns and distributions of diabetes within and between populations and have helped to elucidate the aetiology of the disease. This has helped raise awareness of the tremendous burden the disease places on individuals and societies; it has also identified key risk factors that have become the focus of diabetes prevention trials and helped shape public health recommendations. Recent developments in affordable high-throughput genetic and molecular phenotyping technologies have driven the emergence of a new type of epidemiology with a more mechanistic focus than ever before. Studies employing these technologies have identified gene variants or causal loci, and linked these to other omics data that help define the molecular processes mediating the effects of genetic variation in the expression of clinical phenotypes. The scale of these epidemiological studies is rapidly growing; a trend that is set to continue as the public and private sectors invest heavily in omics data generation. Many are banking on this massive volume of diverse molecular data for breakthroughs in drug discovery and predicting sensitivity to risk factors, response to therapies and susceptibility to diabetes complications, as well as the development of disease-monitoring tools and surrogate outcomes. To realise these possibilities, it is essential that omics technologies are applied to well-designed epidemiological studies and that the emerging data are carefully analysed and interpreted. One might view this as next-generation epidemiology, where complex high-dimensionality data analysis approaches will need to be blended with many of the core principles of epidemiological research. In this article, we review the literature on omics in diabetes epidemiology and discuss how this field is evolving.