Common human pathologies have a complicated etiology involving both genetic and environmental risk factors. Moreover, the genetic basis of these disorders is also complex, with multiple and weak genetic variants contributing to disease susceptibility. In addition, most of these risk genetic variants occur outside genes, within the vast non-coding human genomic space. In this review I first illustrate how large-scale genomic studies aimed at mapping cis-regulatory elements in the human genome are facilitating the identification of disease-causative non-coding genetic variation. I then discuss some of the challenges that remain to be solved before the pathological consequences of non-coding genetic variation can be fully appreciated. Ultimately, revealing the genetics of human complex disease can be a critical step towards more personalized and effective diagnosis and treatments.
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