B4618 - Harnessing DNA methylation variation between populations to understand disease discordance across ancestries Diverse Epigenetic - 21/05/2024

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Hannah Elliott | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Dr Josine Min, Dr Sarah Watkins
Title of project: 
Harnessing DNA methylation variation between populations to understand disease discordance across ancestries (Diverse Epigenetic
Proposal summary: 

DNA methylation (DNAm) is an epigenetic mechanism that plays a central role in gene regulation. It helps to define how cells respond to genetic and environmental signals and, ultimately, contributes to whole system health and disease status.

Levels of DNAm differ from one person to another. However, it is unclear how much of the variation in DNAm levels is caused by genetic or environmental factors and if such effects also relate to human phenotypes. Understanding the relationships between DNAm, genetics and environment is essential for both understanding pathways of health and disease and disease consequences.

Prior research has been limited to populations of European genetic ancestry, restricting understanding of DNAm variation to limited genetic and environmental contexts. This is a crucial knowledge gap because there are known genetic and environmental differences in drug response and disease risk factors across population groups worldwide which may be attributable to DNAm variation.

Evaluating DNA methylation variation in diverse population groups allows comparison across varying genetic and environmental exposure profiles. Identification of disease pathways common to all populations will represent mechanisms of health and disease that are common across all humans. This allows identification of drug targets that will be effective in any population group.

Identification of disease pathways restricted to specific genetic and/or environmental exposure profile will reflect adaptation to environmental and genetic context. This will allow identification of molecular mechanisms that underpin the disease discordance that we observe across global populations and highlight opportunities for targeted treatments.

This research builds a global partnership of teams to bring together genetic and epigenetic data collected from individuals worldwide. A key aspect of this study is building equitable partnerships between these teams. This is essential in order to build capacity for research in genetically diverse datasets and to provide internationally relevant research on cardiometabolic and child health phenotypes.

Identification of common and context specific mechanisms of health and disease mediated by DNA methylation is of high health impact because it will enable actions to reduce global health disparity and inequity via targeted interventions or treatments.

Impact of research: 
DEEP research will uncover common and novel pathways of health and disease across populations. This will translate to identify the causes of differential disease risk observed across populations, identify appropriate treatment and interventions and reduce global health disparity.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 15 May, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 16 May, 2024
Epidemiology, Diabetes, Obesity, GWAS, EWAS, BMI, Cardiovascular, Epigenetics, Genetic epidemiology, Genome wide association study, Mendelian randomisation