Symptom Science: Repurposing Existing Omics Data

Biol Res Nurs. 2017 Jan;19(1):18-27. doi: 10.1177/1099800416666716. Epub 2016 Sep 20.


Omics approaches, including genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenomics, microbiomics, and metabolomics, generate large data sets. Once they have been used to address initial study aims, these large data sets are extremely valuable to the greater research community for ancillary investigations. Repurposing available omics data sets provides data to address research questions, generate and test hypotheses, replicate findings, and conduct mega-analyses. Many well-characterized, longitudinal, epidemiological studies collected extensive phenotype data related to symptom occurrence and severity. While the main phenotype of interest for many of these studies was often not symptom related, these data were collected to better understand the primary phenotype of interest. A search for symptom data (i.e., cognitive impairment, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress/nausea, sleep, and pain) in the database of genotypes and phenotypes (dbGaP) revealed many studies that collected symptom and omics data. There is thus a real possibility for nurse scientists to be able to look at symptom data over time from thousands of individuals and use omics data to identify key biological underpinnings that account for the development and severity of symptoms without recruiting participants or generating any new data. The purpose of this article is to introduce the reader to resources that provide omics data to the research community for repurposing, provide guidance on using these databases, and encourage the use of these data to move symptom science forward.

Keywords: big data; omics; repurposing; symptoms.