GWAS stands for Genome-Wide Association Studies. This method involves scanning the entire genome (the entire genetic content). In a GWAS study, researchers try to understand which genetic markers are associated with specific health conditions or traits.
A GWAS is typically used to answer questions of the following nature.
Which genetic markers are associated with high LDL cholesterol levels?
Which genetic markers are associated with diabetes?
The goal of GWAS is to discover genetic markers that are found more frequently in the case group than the control group. For example, a study may consist of a group of 100 people with diabetes and another 100 without diabetes. After analysis, scientists may be able to find several markers that are found more frequently in the diabetic group than in the non-diabetic group. Markers being present more frequently in the diabetic group does not mean they cause diabetes. It only means they are associated with a higher risk of diabetes.