Mendelian randomization: genetic anchors for causal inference in epidemiological studies

Hum Mol Genet. 2014 Sep 15;23(R1):R89-98. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddu328. Epub 2014 Jul 4.


Observational epidemiological studies are prone to confounding, reverse causation and various biases and have generated findings that have proved to be unreliable indicators of the causal effects of modifiable exposures on disease outcomes. Mendelian randomization (MR) is a method that utilizes genetic variants that are robustly associated with such modifiable exposures to generate more reliable evidence regarding which interventions should produce health benefits. The approach is being widely applied, and various ways to strengthen inference given the known potential limitations of MR are now available. Developments of MR, including two-sample MR, bidirectional MR, network MR, two-step MR, factorial MR and multiphenotype MR, are outlined in this review. The integration of genetic information into population-based epidemiological studies presents translational opportunities, which capitalize on the investment in genomic discovery research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic