Genetic Epidemiology, Psychiatric Genetics, Asthma Genetics and Statistical Genetics Laboratories investigate the pattern of disease in families, particularly identical and non-identical twins, to assess the relative importance of genes and environment in a variety of important health problems.
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The Genetic Epidemiology, Molecular Epidemiology and Queensland Statistical Genetics laboratories investigate the pattern of disease in families, particularly identical and non-identical twins, to assess the relative importance of genes and environment in a variety of important health problems.
One focus is the way melanoma runs in families. All familial cases and twins with melanoma diagnosed in Queensland and NSW from 1982-1990 have been identified. By obtaining detailed information on sun exposure, natural coloration and moliness in index cases and their relatives, a much better perspective of the role of genetic factors in melanoma is being gained. It is clear that moles (melanocytic naevi) are a major risk factor for melanoma. It is therefore important that we know more about the factors responsible for development and change of moles. In an NHMRC/QCF-funded study, we are counting and mapping moles in over 600 pairs of Brisbane 12 year old twins and following them up at their fourteenth birthday. We have shown that individual differences in moliness in this sample are largely genetic and that much of this variation occurs at the familial melanoma locus on chromosome 9.
Alcohol consumption is associated with many medical and social variables. With support from both NHMRC and three large grants from the U.S. National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 5,000 pairs of twins plus their relatives - 23,000 subjects in all - have been surveyed, and we have conducted telephone interviews with over 11,000 twins and 4000 of their spouses. Genetic factors account for about two thirds of the susceptibility to alcoholism in both women and men in Australia. Now we are obtaining blood samples from these twins with a view to identifying particular genes predisposing to drinking problems. A major finding this past year is that the alcohol dehydrogenase gene complex on chromosome 4 has a significant effect on risk of alcoholism.
The new challenge in genetic epidemiology, made possible by recent advances in molecular biology and advances in automation and robotics, is to identify the particular genes involved in complex disease etiology. QIMR is a major partner in the CRC for Discovery of Genes for Common Human Diseases. The key resource for such advances to be possible is a large sample of pairs of relatives measured for the traits of interest. Studies conducted by QIMR of more than 7,000 twin pairs over the past ten years provide just such a resource.
We are embarking on projects to find major genes influencing several important women's health problems including endometriosis, the latter being a major risk factor for infertility. We are also interested in the genetics of super-fertility, as manifested in familial dizygotic twinning and have genotyped 213 pairs of sisters who each have DZ twins in order to find the genes responsible.
We are keen to attract good PhD and Honours students in a wide range of topics in Genetic Epidemiology and Gene Mapping. We emphasise statistical and computer skills but offer training in necessary laboratory techniques for gene mapping as a minor theme. Major interests are in behaviour genetics (personality and cognition), psychiatric genetics (anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse) and common diseases including asthma, endometriosis, and melanoma.