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BACKGROUND

Recent genome-wide association analyses in Europeans have identified 162 genetic variants to associate with years spent in education. Translational applications of these data through Mendelian randomisation have identified strong associations with heart disease and cardiovascular risk factors, suggesting that education is likely to play an important role in the prevention of heart disease.

The China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study (www.ckbiobank.org) of over 0.5 million adults is one of the largest non-European population cohorts. It includes extensive questionnaire-based health and lifestyle data and detailed physical measurements collected at baseline; and prospective follow-up for incident events from disease registries and health insurance data. Additionally, a resurvey of 25,000 individuals included additional measurements such as electrocardiogram, blood lipids and urine markers; and blood biomarkers, NMR metabolomics, and proteomics have been measured subsets of individuals. Genome-wide genotyping, with imputation of 10M genetic variants, was recently completed for 100,000 CKB participants.

This project will seek to investigate in CKB the causal relevance of education (and associated risk factors, e.g. household income) to cardiovascular and other major non-communicable diseases.

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING

The project will include:

  • Epidemiological analyses of the effect of education on a range of diseases and risk factors, including: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung disease, cancer subtypes
  • Genome-wide association analysis of relevant traits; experience in all stages of data QC and association analysis; meta-analysis of association data within CKB and/or in combination with data from other studies
  • Trans-ethnic meta-analyses of GWAS data with results from UK Biobank
  • Mendelian randomisation analyses to investigate causal effects of education and related traits on diseases and risk factors

There will be in-house training in epidemiology and in statistical and computational genetics, and attendance at relevant courses including Mendelian randomisation workshops and the Wellcome Trust course “Design and Analysis of Genetic-based Association Studies”.

FIELD WORK, SECONDMENTS, INDUSTRY PLACEMENTS AND TRAINING 

The project will be based within the CKB research group, part of the Nuffield Department of Population Health and based in the Big Data Institute. There are excellent facilities and a world-class community of genomics and population health scientists. Depending on the direction of the project, there will be opportunities to collaborate across scientific disciplines and potential for involvement in international collaborations and/or consortia, or for secondment to Bristol for advanced training in emerging Mendelian randomisation methodologies.

PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATE

The candidate should have a 2.1 or higher degree, with a strong background in genetics and/or epidemiology. The project will involve large-scale data and statistical analyses and, therefore, requires some previous statistical training/experience, and aptitude for and interest in extending these skills.

Supervisors