Population genetics and human health

Population genetics is the study of the distribution of variation within and between populations and the frequency of different types of genotypes or alleles in populations. Recording the frequencies of risk alleles will provide insights into the genetic epidemiology of human traits and disease. The combination of population genetic research and public health is an important fusion of fields to improve treatment of disease and clinical burdens with genetic basis. We use bioinformatic and statistical software to analyse this genetic information.

Genetic association in bar chart and correlation graph
Binary code representing bioinformatics data

Effects of Daylight Exposure and Vitamin D on Circadian Rhythms, Mood, and Sleep. 

Disturbed circadian rhythms are a feature of many neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions in adults and children. Our overall aim for this pilot study is to investigate the reasons for this. Exposure to daylight is suspected to be involved in the association between mood, sleep, and circadian rhythms but we do not have good methods for quantifying intensity and duration of daylight exposure in individuals. Our research team are trialling and optimizing the use wearable sensors to assess exposure to daylight and to measure associations with sleep, mood, Vitamin D, and circadian rhythms in a small sample of adults. We aim to develop novel methods for quantifying daylight exposure, as well as supporting further work to uncover interactions between pathways that regulate circadian rhythms and Vitamin D biochemistry. This research is focused on understanding the diverse mechanisms through which sunlight exposure affects human health.  

 

The recruitment for this study is now open. Please see the first study on the participate page for more information.

UK Biobank

The UK Biobank is a large-scale biomedical database that has recruited 500,000 individuals biometric data to improve knowledge of health. Our research investigates the genetics of complex traits by utilising the biodata available to develop robust statistical analyses from these large samples. Dr Cathy Wyse is currently investigating UK Biobank studies that analyses urbanisation, circadian rhythmicity, metabolic processes and mental health. Thomas Dinneen is also using the UK Biobank to investigate the contributions of secondary hits on the variance of cognitive and psychiatric outcomes in individuals that carry certain neurodevelopmental conditions and cognition copy number variants (ND - CNVs).

Mendelian randomization

Mendelian randomization is a form of observational epidemiology that infers whether there may be causality between variables based on associations between variables. Our research team is using genetic variants associated with circadian rhythms as instrumental variables to identify causal relationships between sleep and neuropsychiatric disorders. An association between a genetic variant and a health outcome is indicative of a causal effect of a possible genetic risk factor. Shane Crinion is investigating the causal role between circadian rhythms in neuropsychiatric disorders using mendelian randomization.