Understanding the causal role of biomarkers in cardiovascular and other diseases is crucial in order to find effective approaches (including pharmacological therapies) for disease treatment and prevention. Classical observational studies provide naïve estimates of the likely role of biomarkers in disease development; however, such studies are prone to bias. This has direct relevance for drug development as if drug targets track to non-causal biomarkers, this can lead to expensive failure of these drugs in phase III randomised controlled trials. In an effort to provide a more reliable indication of the likely causal role of a biomarker in the development of disease, Mendelian randomisation studies are increasingly used, and this is facilitated by the availability of large-scale genetic data. We conducted a narrative review in order to provide a description of the utility of Mendelian randomisation for clinicians engaged in cardiovascular research. We describe the rationale and provide a basic description of the methods and potential limitations of Mendelian randomisation. We give examples from the literature where Mendelian randomisation has provided pivotal information for drug discovery including predicting efficacy, informing on target-mediated adverse effects and providing potential new evidence for drug repurposing. The variety of the examples presented illustrates the importance of Mendelian randomisation in order to prioritise drug targets for cardiovascular research.
- Study design
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Contributors DAB drafted the original report, critically reviewed and updated the manuscript. MVH helped to revise the manuscript and critically reviewed the scientific content.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Correction notice This paper has been amended since it was published Online First. Owing to a scripting error, some of the publisher names in the references were replaced with ‘BMJ Publishing Group’. This only affected the full text version, not the PDF. We have since corrected these errors and the correct publishers have been inserted into the references.
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