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Biomedicine and Health - Publications

Workshop on Genetic epidemiology, Elsinore, Denmark, 31 May - 2 June 1992

CONTENTS


SUMMARY

The past twenty years have witnessed a revolution in molecular genetics. We are now in the beginning of an era where our knowledge about pathogenesis of diseases will suggest so-called candidate genes that can be assessed in epidemiological studies.

The Commission of the European Communities is implementing its fifth research programme in the field of medicine and health combining for the first time medical and health research and human genome analysis into a single programme - Biomedical and Health Research (1990-1994) - BIOMED 1. Indeed, one of the aims of the Human Genome Analysis is to understand the genetic basis for multifactorial disease. It is to be expected that genetic factors will be included, at increased frequency, as variables in future epidemiological studies.

COMAC Epidemiology with the support of the Commission services organized an exploratory workshop, with the aim of discussing opportunities in the rapidly developing area of genetic epidemiology in Europe. This new research area might integrate epidemiology and human genome analysis. The workshop took place in Elsinore in Denmark 31 May - 2 June 1992 in conjonction with the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Genetics. Research workers with backgrounds in genetics, epidemiology and statistics took part. The two first days included presentations and discussions on molecular genetics and gene-environment interaction, as well as on the genetic epidemiology of a variety of major chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. The final day was dedicated to group discussions and plenary sessions to arrive at the recommendations presented in these proceedings.

The main conclusion from the workshop is that the study of the relationship between environment and health in the light of genetic susceptibility should be a target in future medical research efforts in Europe. To this end, the footing specific recommendations are made:

  1. A working group on the methods of genetic epidemiology should be established for development of new concepts, designs, measurements, utilisation of technology in molecular genetics, and statistical methods.
  2. The establishment and maintenance of biological banks, including genomic material, should be better standardised and coordinated so that valid methods of data collection and storage are used.
  3. For the purpose of linkage analysis in high-risk families, increased co-operation between study centres across Europe is needed to increase sample sizes.
  4. For the detection of gene/environment interactions in causality of common chronic disorders, large population based cohort studies, case-control studies and family studies (including special family study designs such as the twin, adoption and sib-pair designs) are recommended, preferably for comparisons across countries presenting different exposures. Population-based samples of data from the various participating countries can be a centralised facility.
  5. A central information database on research projects -ongoing or already performed -is suggested.
  6. Coordinated efforts for the increased and improved use of family, twin, and adoption registries as well as disease registries are recommended.
  7. National ethical guidelines allowing research while securing the protection and benefits of individual participants in studies of genetic epidemiology is needed, within the framework of the ethical guidelines suggested by COMAC Epidemiology.

FOREWORD

The Commission of the European Communities is implementing its fifth research programme in the field of medicine and health. Since 1978, starting with Medical and Health Research (MHR), these activities have increased in terms of number of projects and participants from three research networks originally to 140 in MHR4 (1987-1991). In 1990, with the adoption of the Human Genome Analysis Programme, a new activity in the biomedical field began.

When the new programme in the field of biomedicine and health was adopted by the Council of Ministers in September 1991, medical and health research and human genome analysis were combined into a single programme - Biomedical and Health Research (1990-1994) - BIOMED 1.

The Commission implements each programme in collaboration with an advisory committee and, when necessary, additional working groups, e.g. from 1987 to 1991 COMAC Epidemiology (COMAC = COMité d'Actions Concertées or Concerted Actions Committee).

COMAC Epidemiology with the support of the Commission services organized an exploratory workshop, with the aim of discussing opportunities in the rapidly developing area of genetic epidemiology in Europe. This new research area might integrate epidemiology and human genome analysis.

This three-day workshop focused on the following topics: molecular genetics, gene/environment interaction, and genetic epidemiology of -major chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.

The abstracts of the lectures are in alphabetical order by authors. The programme of this workshop and a list of participants are given in the annex to this report.

The Commission services would like to thank Dr. P. Magnus and Dr. T.I.A. Sorensen for organising the workshop and also Ms. Vibeke Munk for all her organisational work.

Manuel Hallen
Andreas Klepsch

Commission of the European Communities,
RESEARCH-E-4, Medical Research Division,
Rue de la Loi 200 / Wetstraat 200
B- 1049 Bruxelles/Brussel
Belgique/België

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BIOMED Publications | 08.02.2000