Texas Biomed Staff

John Blangero

Scientist | Genetics
Phone: 210-258-9634
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Summary

"Cutting-edge deep sequencing techniques are enabling us to more quickly find gene variants and measure their output, speeding the pace of translational research that leads to better diagnosis and treatments. We are definitely moving to where theory meets practice."

Theory is meeting practice at the AT&T Genomics Computing Center, where Blangero recently directed a major expansion of resources in 2010 that makes Texas Biomed one of the most powerful genetic analysis centers in the world. Blangero and his research team are recognized as pioneers and leaders in the field of statistical genetics, and they developed a widely used software package for complex genetic analyses. Utilizing the computer ranch, which now has more than 8,000 processors; Medusa; and the advanced high throughput deep-sequencing technology available in the Department of Genetics, Blangero and his colleagues are revolutionizing the search for disease genes.

In an exciting new project, Blangero’s lab is undertaking whole genome sequencing for participants in the San Antonio Family Heart Study, a research program begun in 1991 that involves volunteers from 40 extended Mexican American families in the San Antonio area. Many of these people also are involved in a more recent study, the Genetics of Brain Structure and Function Study, or GOBS. Blangero is a principal investigator for both projects, which are searching for genes related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disorders as well as genes that regulate the development and function of the brain. Whole-genome sequencing, coupled with the analytical power of the expanded computing center, sets the stage for major advances in the understanding of how genes and environmental factors interact to cause complex diseases. Scientists expect discoveries that can move quickly to translational research and lead to improved diagnostics and treatments for major diseases that impact people around the globe.

This is a period of rapid disease gene discovery. In 2011, Blangero and his colleagues working on the GOBS study identified a new gene related to depression. Using a novel analytical approach, they analyzed 11,000 endophenotypes for their relationships with major depression and found disease risk correlated strongly with expression levels of the RNF123 gene, a neuron growth regulator. This novel gene’s expression level now represents a potential biomarker that may prove helpful in identifying people most at risk for major depression.

Aiding the movement toward translational research, Blangero’s team recently began a new collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to generate novel drug targets for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.


Education

Doctoral Degree: Population Genetics

Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH

Master's Degree: Biological Anthropology

Case Western University Cleveland, OH

Bachelor's Degree

Youngstown State University Youngstown, OH

Postdoctoral Work

Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Research Focus

Research in Dr. Blangero's group focuses on the localization and identification of genes influencing common complex diseases.

Awards and Honors

1979 B.A., summa cum laude

1980-1983 David Hudson Fellowship, Case Western Reserve University

1985 NSF Grant to Improve Doctoral Dissertation Research1989 NIH National Research Service Award (F32 GM12782)

1994 G.W. Lasker Award for significant scientific contribution to the journal Human Biology

1997 Member, Human Genome Diversity Project Committee, NAS

1998-2001 Member, Mammalian Genetics Study Section, NIH

2000 Member, Editorial Boards, Genetic Epidemiology and Human Molecular Genetics

2000 Member, Scientific Committee, Fondazione Telethon

2001 Member, Editorial Board, American Journal of Human Genetics

2001 NIH-MERIT Award, NIMH

Publications

High dimensional endophenotype ranking in the search for major depression risk genes

Glahn DC, Curran JE, Winkler AM, Carless MA, et al.
Biol Psychiatry 71: 6-14, 2012
PubMed ID: 21982424

Characterizing the extent of human genetic variation for performance-related traits

Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine: Genetic and Molecular Aspects of Sports Performance, C. Bouchard and E. Hoffman (eds), Wiley-Blackwell
Blangero J, Kent JW Jr.
33-45, 2011

Grants

R37 MH059490 (Blangero): NIH/NIMH Quantitative Trait Locus Mapping in Human Pedigrees
The major goal of this project is to develop/extend a number of new statistical genetic analytical methods for the localization and evaluation of QTLs influencing common human diseases.

P01 HL045522 (Blangero), NIH/NHLBI Genetics of Atherosclerosis in Mexican Americans; Project 3: Identification of Lipoprotein And Obesity – Related QTL’s
This project uses a novel Bayesian quantitative trait nucleotide method to comprehensively evaluate positional candidate genes in previously identified regions of linkage.

Core C: Administration The major goal of this subproject is to provide overall direction and financial management of the Program Project and coordinating activities among the various projects and cores to assure smooth interaction among all components.

R01 HL070167 (Cole), NIH/NHLBI Genetic Epidemiology of CVD Risk Factors
The goal of this project is identify genes that influence current and long term risk of CVD.

R01 DK047482 (Stern), NIH/NIDDK NIDDM Susceptibility Genes in Mexican Americans The major goal of this subproject is a pedigree study to identify diabetes susceptibility genes in Mexican Americans.

R01 MH061622-03 (Almasy), NIH/NIMH A Neurobehavioral Family Study of Schizophrenia
The major goal is to combine genetic and neurobiologic paradigms enabling detection and localization of genes that modulate susceptibility to schizophrenia and related phenotypes.

R01 AI037091 (Williams-Blangero), NIH/NIAID Genetics of Susceptibility to Helminthic Infection
The goal of this project is to look at the interactive effects of genes in the host and in the Helminthic parasites that influence host disease phenotypes.

R01 HL070751 (Almasy), NIH/NHLBI Genetic Analysis of Idiopathic Thrombosis
The major goal of this project is to identify the variance influencing hemostasis phenotypes.

R01 AI044406 (Williams-Blangero), NIH/NIAID A Genome Scan for Susceptibility to Helminthic Infection
The major goal of this project is to provide new information about the genetic determinants of susceptibility to intestinal worm infections.

R01 DK064391 (Towne), NIH Genetic Regulation of Adiposity And Associated CVD Risks
The major goal of this grant is to find genes that jointly influence visceral adiposity and risk of heart disease.

R01 DK067690 (Jenkinson), NIH/NIDDK Diabesity Gene Discovery at Chromosome 6q23
The major goal of this study is to discover the gene(s) at the 6q23 chromosomal region, which has been shown to be linked with "diabesity" phenotypes in Mexican Americans as well as in some other populations. Using data from two large Mexican American family data sets (San Antonio Family Diabetes/Gallbladder Study and VA Genetic Epidemiology Study), this study plans to perform SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) genotyping in the 6q23 chromosomal region in order to examine whether the putative functionalpolymorphism(s) found by the quantitative trait nucleotide (QTN) analysis can account for the initial linkage signal using the conditional linkage/QTN analysis.

R01 DK065598 (Kissebah), NIH/NIDDK Positional Candidate Genes Affecting Metabolic Syndrome The major goal of this grant is to examine the role of two positional candidate genes on chromosome 3 in phenotypes relating to the metabolic syndrome.

R37 MH059490 (Blangero), NIH/NIMH Quantitative Trait Locus Mapping in Human Pedigrees
The major goal of this project is to develop/extend a number of new statistical genetic analytical methods for the localization and evaluation of QTLs influencing common human diseases.