Until now, the genetic causes of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, have proven difficult to the point of impossibility. The genetic basis of some of the deadliest human diseases is far more complex often involving subtle changes to several genes on different chromosomes.
However, scientists from Rosetta Inpharmatics, LLC, a subsidiary of Merck & Co have constructed a new method that identifies the elusive genes involved in such complex diseases.
Using a mouse model system for human diseases, scientists have successfully used this new method to identify a gene called Insig2, which is directly involved in the control of blood cholesterol levels. This gene has been demonstrably linked with the causes of obesity, diabetes and atherosclerosis in mice.
"Using this new method we have identified a gene involved with high blood cholesterol in mice, and we fully expect the human equivalent to be just as significant," said Eric Schadt, of Rosetta Inpharmatics.
"This opens new doors in the potential treatment or prevention of cardiovascular disease in humans," he added.
This new method is also directly applicable to many other diseases in human beings, said the study. It added that the potential to use this approach to address the causes of serious human diseases is enormous.
The approach appears in Elsevier's journal Genomics.