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Genome-wide association studies for Alzheimer’s disease: bigger is not always better

Escott-Price, Valentina ORCID: and Hardy, John 2022. Genome-wide association studies for Alzheimer’s disease: bigger is not always better. Brain Communications 4 (3) , fcac125. 10.1093/braincomms/fcac125

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As the size of genome-wide association studies increase, the number of associated trait loci identified inevitably increase. One welcomes this if it allows the better delineation of the pathways to disease and increases the accuracy of genetic prediction of disease risk through polygenic risk score analysis. However, there are several problems in the continuing increase in the genome-wide analysis of ‘Alzheimer’s disease’. In this review, we have systematically assessed the history of Alzheimer’s disease genome-wide association studies, including their sample sizes, age and selection/assessment criteria of cases and controls and heritability explained by these disease genome-wide association studies. We observe that nearly all earlier disease genome-wide association studies are now part of all current disease genome-wide association studies. In addition, the latest disease genome-wide association studies include (i) only a small fraction (∼10%) of clinically screened controls, substituting for them population-based samples which are systematically younger than cases, and (ii) around 50% of Alzheimer’s disease cases are in fact ‘proxy dementia cases’. As a consequence, the more genes the field finds, the less the heritability they explain. We highlight potential caveats this situation creates and discuss some of the consequences occurring when translating the newest Alzheimer’s disease genome-wide association study results into basic research and/or clinical practice.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 2632-1297
Funders: MRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 13 May 2022
Last Modified: 24 May 2023 18:28

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