George Davey Smith's research while affiliated with University of Bristol and other places

Publications (799)

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Background Epigenetic clocks are biomarkers of ageing derived from DNA methylation levels at a subset of CpG sites. The difference between age predicted by these clocks and chronological age, termed “epigenetic age acceleration”, has been shown to predict age-related disease and mortality. We aimed to assess the prognostic value of epigenetic age a...
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Mendelian randomization (MR) is a term that applies to the use of genetic variation to address causal questions about how modifiable exposures influence different outcomes. The principles of MR are based on Mendel’s laws of inheritance and instrumental variable estimation methods, which enable the inference of causal effects in the presence of unob...
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In European and many African, Middle Eastern and southern Asian populations, lactase persistence (LP) is the most strongly selected monogenic trait to have evolved over the past 10,000 years1. Although the selection of LP and the consumption of prehistoric milk must be linked, considerable uncertainty remains concerning their spatiotemporal configu...
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statistics for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are increasingly available for downstream analyses. Meanwhile, the popularity of casual inference methods has grown as we look to gather robust evidence for novel medical and public health interventions. This has led to the development of methods that use GWAS summary statistics for causal infer...
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Background The use of Mendelian randomization (MR) in epidemiology has increased considerably in recent years, with a subsequent increase in systematic reviews of MR studies. We conducted a systematic review of tools designed for assessing risk of bias and/or quality of evidence in MR studies and a review of systematic reviews of MR studies. Metho...
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Background: Interpreting instrumental variable results often requires further assumptions in addition to the core assumptions of relevance, independence, and the exclusion restriction. Methods: We assess whether instrument-exposure additive homogeneity renders the Wald estimand equal to the average derivative effect (ADE) in the case of a binary...
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Background Mendelian randomization (MR) is a powerful tool through which the causal effects of modifiable exposures on outcomes can be estimated from observational data. Most exposures vary throughout the life course, but MR is commonly applied to one measurement of an exposure (e.g. weight measured once between ages 40 and 60 years). It has been a...
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Estimating effects of parental and sibling genotypes (indirect genetic effects) can provide insight into how the family environment influences phenotypic variation. There is growing molecular genetic evidence for effects of parental phenotypes on their offspring (e.g. parental educational attainment), but the extent to which siblings affect each ot...
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Importance: Several maternal exposures during pregnancy are considered predisposing factors for offspring neurodevelopmental conditions. However, many of these exposures may be noncausal and biased by maternal genetic liability. Objective: To assess whether pregnancy-related predisposing factors for offspring neurodevelopmental conditions are as...
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Background: The direct effects of general adiposity (body mass index (BMI)) and central adiposity (waist-to-hip-ratio (WHR)) on circulating lipoproteins, lipids, and metabolites are unknown. Methods: We used new metabolic data from UK Biobank (N=109,532, a five-fold higher N over previous studies). EDTA-plasma was used to quantify 249 traits wit...
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Background In the last decade, genomic studies have identified and replicated thousands of genetic associations with measures of health and disease and contributed to the understanding of the etiology of a variety of health conditions. Proteins are key biomarkers in clinical medicine and often drug-therapy targets. Like genomics, proteomics can adv...
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Evidence linking parental inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with autism in children is inconclusive. We conducted four complementary studies to investigate associations between parental IBD and autism in children, and elucidated their underlying etiology. Conducting a nationwide population-based cohort study using Swedish registers, we found evidenc...
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Background: Recent omic studies prioritised several drug targets associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) severity. However, little evidence was provided to systematically estimate the effect of drug targets on COVID-19 severity in multiple ancestries. Methods: In this study, we applied Mendelian randomization (MR) and colocalization...
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Deucravacitinib, a novel, selective inhibitor of TYK2 is currently under review at the FDA and EMA for treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. It is unclear whether recent safety concerns (ie, elevated rates of lung cancer and lymphoma) related to similar medications (ie, other JAK inhibitors) are shared with this novel TYK2 inhibitor. We...
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Background Observational studies have highlighted that where individuals live is far more important for risk of dying with COVID-19, than for dying of other causes. Deprivation is commonly proposed as explaining such differences. During the period of localised restrictions in late 2020, areas with higher restrictions tended to be more deprived. We...
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Accurate measurement of the effects of disease status on healthcare costs is important in the pragmatic evaluation of interventions but is complicated by endogeneity bias. Mendelian Randomization, the use of random perturbations in germline genetic variation as instrumental variables, can avoid these limitations. We used a novel Mendelian Randomiza...
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Background: Sex differences in systolic blood pressure (SBP) emerge during adolescence but the role of puberty is not well understood. We examined sex-specific changes in SBP preceding and following puberty and examined the impact of puberty timing on SBP trajectories in females and males. Methods: Trajectories of SBP before and after puberty an...
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Aims/hypothesis Type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic CVD share many risk factors. This study aimed to systematically assess a broad range of continuous traits to separate their direct effects on coronary and peripheral artery disease from those mediated by type 2 diabetes. Methods Our main analysis was a two-step Mendelian randomisation for mediati...
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Dietary factors are assumed to play an important role in cancer risk, apparent in consensus recommendations for cancer prevention that promote nutritional changes. However, the evidence in this field has been generated predominantly through observational studies, which may result in biased effect estimates because of confounding, exposure misclassi...
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Estimates from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of unrelated individuals capture effects of inherited variation (direct effects), demography (population stratification, assortative mating) and relatives (indirect genetic effects). Family-based GWAS designs can control for demographic and indirect genetic effects, but large-scale family datase...
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Background There is considerable evidence suggesting a role of neuroinflammation in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Establishing causality is challenging due to bias from reverse causation and residual confounding. Methods We used two-sample MR to explore causal effects of circulating cytokine concentrations on Alzheimer’s disease risk an...
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The rising prevalence of childhood obesity has been postulated as an explanation for the increasing rate of individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). In this study, we use Mendelian randomization (MR) to provide evidence that childhood body size has an effect on T1D risk (OR = 2.05 per change in body size category, 95% CI = 1.20 to 3.50, P...
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Background/Aims Radiographic hip osteoarthritis (rHOA) is traditionally defined on hip x-rays, using subjective methods such as Kellgren-Lawrence scoring. Associations between subjective rHOA measures and symptoms are inconsistent. Applying digital tools to high-resolution dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans, we aimed to develop a novel se...
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Background Endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer in high-income countries. Elevated body mass index (BMI) is an established modifiable risk factor for this condition and is estimated to confer a larger effect on endometrial cancer risk than any other cancer site. However, the molecular mechanisms underpinning this association...
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It is unclear if body weight in early life affects cancer risk independently of adult body weight. To investigate this question for six obesity-related cancers, we performed univariable and multivariable analyses using i) Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis and ii) longitudinal analyses in prospective cohorts. Both the MR and longitudinal analyse...
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Background: Trajectories of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) traits spanning early childhood to mid-life have not been described in general populations across different geographical contexts. Population trajectories are crucial to better understanding typical developmental patterns. Methods: We combined repeated assessments of ADH...
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Background Two-sample Mendelian randomization (2SMR) is an increasingly popular epidemiological method that uses genetic variants as instruments for making causal inferences. Clear reporting of methods employed in such studies is important for evaluating their underlying quality. However, the quality of methodological reporting of 2SMR studies is c...
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Research at the intersection of social science and genomics, ‘sociogenomics’, is transforming our understanding of the interplay between genomics, individual outcomes and society. It has interesting and maybe unexpected implications for education research and policy. Here we review the growing sociogenomics literature and discuss its implications f...
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Most studies of continuous health-related outcomes examine differences in mean levels (location) of the outcome by exposure. However, identifying effects on the variability (scale) of an outcome, and combining tests of mean and variability (location-and-scale), could provide additional insights into biological mechanisms. A joint test could improve...
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We conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of educational attainment (EA) in a sample of ~3 million individuals and identify 3,952 approximately uncorrelated genome-wide-significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). A genome-wide polygenic predictor, or polygenic index (PGI), explains 12–16% of EA variance and contributes to risk predi...
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Background: Epigenetic clocks have been associated with cancer risk in several observational studies. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether they play a causal role in cancer risk or if they act as a non-causal biomarker. Methods: We conducted a two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) study to examine the genetically predicted effects of epigenetic ag...
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Background: The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) is increasing with an aging worldwide population, yet a comprehensive understanding of its causes and consequences remains limited. We aim to assess the causes and consequences of AF via a bidirectional Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis. Methods: We used publicly available genome-wide as...
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DNA methylation data have become a valuable source of information for biomarker development, because, unlike static genetic risk estimates, DNA methylation varies dynamically in relation to diverse exogenous and endogenous factors, including environmental risk factors and complex disease pathology. Reliable methods for genome-wide measurement at sc...
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with an estimated heritability between 40 and 50%. DNA methylation patterns can serve as proxies of (past) exposures and disease progression, as well as providing a potential mechanism that mediates genetic or environmental risk. Here, we present a blood-based epigenome-wide a...
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Background: Understanding the interplay between educational attainment and genetic predictors of cardiovascular risk may improve our understanding of the aetiology of educational inequalities in cardiovascular disease. Methods: In up to 320 120 UK Biobank participants of White British ancestry (mean age = 57 years, female 54%), we created polyge...
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Background: Epidemiological studies have reported conflicting findings on the potential adverse effects of long-term antihypertensive medication use on cancer risk. Naturally occurring variation in genes encoding antihypertensive drug targets can be used as proxies for these targets to examine the effect of their long-term therapeutic inhibition o...
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Back pain is a common and debilitating disorder with largely unknown underlying biology. Here we report a genome-wide association study of back pain using diagnoses assigned in clinical practice; dorsalgia (119,100 cases, 909,847 controls) and intervertebral disc disorder (IDD) (58,854 cases, 922,958 controls). We identify 41 variants at 33 loci. T...
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Estimated genetic associations with prognosis, or conditional on a phenotype (e.g. disease incidence), may be affected by collider bias, whereby conditioning on the phenotype induces associations between causes of the phenotype and prognosis. We propose a method, ‘Slope-Hunter’, that uses model-based clustering to identify and utilise the class of...
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Body mass index (BMI) is a complex disease risk factor known to be influenced by genes acting via both metabolic pathways and appetite regulation. In this study, we aimed to gain insight into the phenotypic consequences of BMI-associated genetic variants, which may be mediated by their expression in different tissues. First, we harnessed meta-analy...
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Background: Human papilloma virus infection is known to influence oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) risk, likely via sexual transmission. However, sexual behaviour has been correlated with other risk factors including smoking and alcohol, meaning independent effects are difficult to establish. We aimed to evaluate the causal effect of sexual behaviour on...
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Background In this study, we investigated the capability of polygenic risk scores to stratify a cohort of young individuals into risk deciles based on 10 different cardiovascular traits and circulating biomarkers. Methods We first conducted large-scale genome-wide association studies using data on adults (mean age 56.5 years) enrolled in the UK Bi...
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Background: DNA hypomethylation at the F2RL3 locus has been associated with both smoking and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; whether these smoking-related associations form a pathway to disease is unknown. F2RL3 encodes protease-activated receptor 4, a potent thrombin receptor expressed on platelets. Given the role of thrombin in platelet a...
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Background Sex differences in cardiometabolic disease risk are commonly observed across the life course but are poorly understood and may be due to different associations of adiposity with cardiometabolic risk in females and males. We examined whether adiposity is differently associated with cardiometabolic trait levels in females and males at 3 di...
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High body mass index (BMI) is an important predictor of mortality but estimating underlying causality is hampered by confounding and pre-existing disease. Here, we use information from the offspring to approximate parental BMIs, with an aim to avoid biased estimation of mortality risk caused by reverse causality. The analyses were based on informat...
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Objective Conventional scoring methods for radiographic hip osteoarthritis (rHOA) are subjective and show inconsistent relationships with clinical outcomes. To provide a more objective rHOA scoring method, we aimed to develop a semi-automated classifier based on dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) images, and confirm its relationships with clini...
Preprint
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Traditionally, heritability has been estimated using family-based methods such as twin studies. Advancements in molecular genomics have facilitated the development of alternative methods that utilise large samples of unrelated or related individuals. Yet, specific challenges persist in the estimation of heritability such as epistasis, assortative m...
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Background : Epigenetic clocks have been associated with cancer risk in several observational studies. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether they play a causal role in cancer risk or if they act as a non-causal biomarker. Methods : We conducted a two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) study to examine the genetically predicted effects of epigenetic...
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Background:Altered functional brain connectivity has been proposed as an intermediate phenotype between genetic risk loci and clinical expression of schizophrenia. Genetic high risk groups of healthy subjects are particularly suited for the investigation of this proposition because they can be tested in the absence of medication or other secondary...
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Triangulation of evidence from clinical trials and human genetics suggests a potential excess risk of cardiovascular disease events arising from therapeutic inhibition of sclerostin.
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with a lifetime risk of one in 350 people and an unmet need for disease-modifying therapies. We conducted a cross-ancestry genome-wide association study (GWAS) including 29,612 patients with ALS and 122,656 controls, which identified 15 risk loci. When combined with 8,953 indi...
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Objective It remains unclear how the different features of radiographic hip osteoarthritis (rHOA) contribute to hip pain. We examined the relationship between rHOA, including its individual components, and hip pain using a novel dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-based method. Methods Hip DXAs were obtained from UK Biobank. A novel automated m...
Preprint
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Even though physical activity and sedentary behavior are moderately heritable, little is known about the mechanisms that influence these traits. Here, we combine data for up to 674,980 individuals from 51 studies in a trans-ancestry meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for self-reported moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity d...
Preprint
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Background Mendelian randomization (MR) is a powerful tool through which the causal effects of modifiable exposures on outcomes can be estimated from observational data. Most exposures vary throughout the life course, but MR is commonly applied to one measurement of an exposure (e.g., weight measured once between ages 40 and 60). It has been argued...
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Childhood BMI shows associations with adult mortality, but these may be influenced by effects of ill health in childhood on BMI and later mortality. To avoid this, we used offspring childhood BMI as an instrumental variable (IV) for own BMI in relation to mortality and compared it with conventional associations of own childhood BMI and own mortalit...
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Objective: LDL cholesterol (LDLc)-lowering drugs modestly increase body weight and type 2 diabetes risk, but the extent to which the diabetogenic effect of lowering LDLc is mediated through increased BMI is unknown. Research design and methods: We conducted summary-level univariable and multivariable Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses in 921,...
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Introduction: Observational studies suggest that obesity is a risk factor of chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is unclear whether this reflects a direct causal effect of obesity or an effect mediated by obesity-related metabolic changes. Hypotheses: We hypothesised that 1) obesity is a causal risk factor of CKD defined as eGFR <60mL/min/1.73m ² and...
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The burden of cancer from a clinical, societal, and economic viewpoint continues to increase in all parts of the world, along with much debate regarding how to confront this. Projected increases in cancer indicate a 50% increase in the numbers of cases over the next two decades, with the greatest proportional increase in low- and medium-income sett...
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Spousal comparisons have been proposed as a design that can both reduce confounding and estimate effects of the shared adulthood environment. However, assortative mating, the process by which individuals select phenotypically (dis)similar mates, could distort associations when comparing spouses. We evaluated the use of spousal comparisons, as in th...
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Background: Preserved ratio impaired spirometry (PRISm) is defined as a FEV1 of less than 80% predicted and a FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC) ratio of 0·70 or higher. Previous research has indicated that PRISm is associated with respiratory symptoms and is a precursor of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, these findings are ba...