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Unifactorial models are not appropriate for multifactorial disease

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 15 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1353
  1. J H Edwards, Emeritus professor of genetics (
  1. Biochemistry Department, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD

EDITOR—Berger recently discussed the ethical problems of selling Icelandic pedigrees so that genes predisposing to common disorders could be patented.1 The technical problem “will it work” is also of interest. The belief that multifactorial disorders can be analysed by unifactorial methods underlies the ancestral approach of deCODE.

The company claims, with justification, that it has “formidable capabilities in statistical genetics and uses state of the art techniques of statistical analysis. Since deCODE has …

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