The SSGAC discovery of 74 SNP hits on educational attainment (EA) is finally published in Nature.
The study’s authors estimate that the 74 genetic markers they uncovered comprise just 0.43% of the total genetic contribution to educational achievement. Nature – Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment. Educational attainment is strongly influenced by social and other environmental factors, but genetic factors are estimated to account for at least 20% of the variation across individuals.
The study’s authors identified 9 million genetic variants that, as a group, have some influence on school success; these include the 74 genetic markers that show strong individual influence. Considered as part of an overall ‘polygenic’ score, the variants explain 3.2% of the differences in educational attainment between individuals. Plomin says that such studies could pave the way to predictive genetics for traits such as how well children perform on standardized tests.
The authors also report that the markers they found overlap with those associated with better performance in cognitive tests, bolstering the idea that educational attainment is a proxy for intelligence. Because few large studies have tested individuals’ cognitive performance, it has been difficult to discern genetic factors linked to intelligence. But it is much easier to amass large amounts of data that have sufficient statistical power to uncover genetic effects related to educational attainment, because medical studies routinely record data on participants’ years of schooling.
Steve Hsu predicts that growing knowledge of genetic contributions to intelligence could be used to help parents to select embryos created through in vitro fertilization.“You could allow the parents to decide whether they want to implant or not implant an embryo that has a serious cognitive impairment,” Hsu says. “What is missing is the ability to know what places in the genome are affecting cognitive ability, but studies like this one will get us to that point.”
Educational Attainment (EA) was used in order to assemble as large a sample as possible (~300k individuals). Specific cognitive scores are only available for a much smaller number of individuals. But SNPs associated with EA are likely to also be associated with cognitive ability
SOURCES- InfoProc, Nature