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Title: Investigating the relationship between markers of ageing and cardiometabolic disease
Author: Wright, Daniel John
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Human ageing is accompanied by characteristic metabolic and endocrine changes, including altered hormone profiles, insulin resistance and deterioration of skeletal muscle. Obesity and diabetes may themselves drive an accelerated ageing phenotype. Untangling the causal web between ageing, obesity and diabetes is a priority in order to understand their aetiology and improve prevention and management. The role of biological ageing in determining the risk of obesity and associated conditions has often been examined using mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a marker of replicative fatigue and senescence. However, considering phenotypes which represent different domains of biological and functional ageing as exposures for obesity and related traits could allow the elucidation of new understudied phenotypes relevant to cardio-metabolic risk in the wider population. This PhD considers the causal role of (1) hand grip strength (HGS), a marker of overall strength and physical functioning, and (2) resting energy expenditure, an indicator of overall energy metabolism and the major component of daily energy expenditure, in cardio-metabolic risk. I also characterise a new and readily-quantifiable marker of age-related genomic instability, mosaic loss of the Y chromosome (mLOY). Observational evidence implicates each of these phenotypes in cardio-metabolic conditions and intermediate phenotypes. However, it is not possible to infer causality from these observational associations due to confounding and reverse-causality. Mendelian randomisation offers a solution to these limitations and can allow the causal nature of these relationships to be investigated. Using population-based data including UK Biobank, this thesis presents the first large-scale genetic discovery effort for each trait and provides new biological insight into their shared and separate aetiology. I used identified variants to investigate the bidirectional causal associations of each trait with cardio-metabolic outcomes, intermediate phenotypes and other related traits such as frailty and mortality. In total I identified 16 loci for hand grip strength, 19 for mLOY, and one signal for REE. I have shown that HGS is likely to be causally linked to fracture risk, and I have identified the important shared genetic architecture between mLOY, glycaemic traits and cancer. I have also demonstrated that at least one known genetic variant contributing to obesity risk acts partially via reduced REE. Overall the findings of my PhD contribute to our wider understanding of the aetiological role of ageing processes in metabolic dysfunction, and have implications for both basic science and translational applications.
Supervisor: Wareham, Nicholas J. ; Perry, John R. B. ; Scott, Robert A. Sponsor: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Epidemiology ; Genetics ; Genome-wide Association Study ; UK Biobank ; The Fenland Study ; EPIC-Norfolk ; Hand Grip Strength ; Mosaic Loss of Y ; Resting Energy Expenditure ; Mendelian Randomisation ; Causal Inference