A unified framework identifies new links between plasma lipids and diseases from electronic medical records across large-scale cohorts

Nat Genet. 2021 Jul;53(7):972-981. doi: 10.1038/s41588-021-00879-y. Epub 2021 Jun 17.


Plasma lipids are known heritable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but increasing evidence also supports shared genetics with diseases of other organ systems. We devised a comprehensive three-phase framework to identify new lipid-associated genes and study the relationships among lipids, genotypes, gene expression and hundreds of complex human diseases from the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (347 traits) and the UK Biobank (549 traits). Aside from 67 new lipid-associated genes with strong replication, we found evidence for pleiotropic SNPs/genes between lipids and diseases across the phenome. These include discordant pleiotropy in the HLA region between lipids and multiple sclerosis and putative causal paths between triglycerides and gout, among several others. Our findings give insights into the genetic basis of the relationship between plasma lipids and diseases on a phenome-wide scale and can provide context for future prevention and treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Biomarkers*
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • United Kingdom


  • Biomarkers
  • Lipids