Purpose of review: Genome-Wide Association Studies have provided robust identification of approximately 100 genetic loci determining plasma lipid parameters. Using these multiple common genetic lipid-determining variants in a ‘gene score’ has thrown new light on the mode of inheritance of familial lipid disorders.
Recent findings: Different hypertriglyceridaemia states have been explained by the polygenic coinheritance of triglyceride-raising alleles. Taking this gene score approach with 12 LDL-cholesterol-raising alleles, we reported that for patients with a clinical diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolaemia, but no identified rare mutation in the familial hypercholesterolaemia-causing genes, LDL receptor, apolipoprotein B and PCSK9, the most likely explanation for their elevated LDL-C levels was a polygenic, not a monogenic, cause of the disease.
Summary: These findings have wider implications for understanding complex disorders, and may very well explain the genetic basis of familial combined hyperlipidaemia, another familial lipid disorder in which the genetic cause(s) has remained elusive.