Scientists in Edinburgh have discovered that single genes can be linked to multiple diseases such as heart conditions & cancer.The Edinburgh University research suggested that one in five genes were linked to more than one disease. The study found genes responsible for Crohn's disease were linked with other conditions.They included prostate & breast cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, obesity & high cholesterol.
The researchers said people who carry particular genes - including some responsible for heart disease, Parkinson's disease & some cancers - could be at risk of developing other health problems. Knowing how diseases are genetically connected could aid efforts to develop medicines and could help predict & avoid potential side-effects.
Dr Evropi Theodoratou, of Edinburgh University's centre for population health sciences, said: "Showing that genes are linked to more than one disease is very important. "We have shown that this is a common finding and not just an exception. "Anyone who goes for genetic testing should be aware that in future any information they receive about individual genes could have wider implications than they or the clinician immediately realise. "They could also influence the risk of other conditions, so being aware of these wider effects is important."
The scientists also report new genetic links between those genes associated with certain fats that may lower cholesterol & the risk of gallstones. And the study supports earlier research that identified a link between fetal haemoglobin & risk of malaria.
The study is published online in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
1 December 2011