Evaluating disorders with a complex genetics basis: The future roles of meta-analysis and systems biology

David C. Whitcomb*, Elie Aoun, Yoram Vodovotz, Gilles Clermont, M. Michael Barmada

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Growing evidence suggests that complex gene and environment interactions underlie a number of diseases including chronic inflammatory diseases of the digestive system. The rapid advances in information and technology provide opportunities to discover the risks or etiology for a variety of disorders within individual patients. However, the availability of new data and new technology has outstripped the conceptual framework of simple disorders and challenges current statistical approaches. Here we address the issues surrounding study design and sample size for complex genetic traits, with special attention to meta-analysis and systems biology. We conclude that meta-analysis should play a limited role in evaluating studies of complex genetic diseases. Instead, systems biology-based approaches should be developed to integrate multiple, focused, and mechanistic association studies with the goal of assisting in the risk assessment of patients on a person-by-person basis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2195-2202
Number of pages8
JournalDigestive Diseases and Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Candidate gene
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Complex traits
  • Crohn's disease
  • Genetic linkage
  • Genetics
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Meta-analysis
  • Pancreas
  • Pancreatitis
  • Power calculations
  • Sample size
  • Study size
  • Systems biology


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