Elucidating the underlying genetic variations influencing various complex diseases is one of the major challenges currently facing clinical genetic research. Although these variations are often difficult to uncover, approaches such as genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have been successful at finding statistically significant associations between specific genomic loci and disease susceptibility. GWAS has been especially successful in elucidating genetic variants that influence type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity/body mass index (BMI). Specifically, several GWASs have confirmed that a variant in transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) confers risk for T2D, while a variant in fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO) confers risk for obesity/BMI; indeed both of these signals are considered the most statistically associated loci discovered for these respective traits to date. The discovery of these two key loci in this context has been invaluable for providing novel insight into mechanisms of heritability and disease pathogenesis. As follow-up studies of TCF7L2 and FTO have typically lead the way in how to follow up a GWAS discovery, we outline what has been learned from such investigations and how they have implications for the myriad of other loci that have been subsequently reported in this disease context.
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