Eric Lander on “missing heritability”; appetizer for the papers and the media
EDIT: the paper is finally out. OpenAccess: The mystery of missing heritability: Genetic interactions create phantom heritability
I remember a few months back watching this video of Eric Lander speaking at an NIH event. The talk is great, covers a lot of cool work. But at the end he also speculates on what the next big project for the new generation of scientists should be (can jump to about 65 minutes using the slider to hear this). To paraphrase a famous movie dialog:
Eric Lander: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Eric Lander: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Eric Lander: Circuits.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
So I’m joking of course, it was much more than that one word. But his point was that we really need a cellular circuitry mapping project to go to the next level. The reason I highlight this is because it’s a perfect setup for a question he gets at the end.
At around 72 minutes, Francis Collins asks Lander about the “dark matter” and the “missing heritability”. And Eric takes that opportunity to describe his thoughts on where it is. I remember thinking at the time that this was pretty intriguing and I was expecting to hear more about it. As a prelude to the big discussions we are all about to have on the PNAS papers we expect to see any moment now, watch what he says. Consider it an appetizer.
Why you need to know this:
Not only are we about to have a big discussion on this topic among genomics scientists, the information is also about to be mangled by the press and by gene deniers. Do note: one organization that has already launched a press release on the unseen papers (New study exposes flawed claims of genome revolution) is a group that maintains a conspiracy theory about the human genome project as an arm of big tobacco. Yes, they claim HGP was a giant conspiracy of the Nobel winners and tobacco. So I’m also asking you to be aware of the sources of claims around this.