Short gene exposed


A study conducted by the University of Exeter in the UK examined how a person's height is determined and found small people could have inherited 'a big batch of short genes' from those before them.

The research also discovered that despite us being taller than our ancestors due to healthier, more varied diets, they only contribute to a fifth of the growth spurt documented over the years. The other four fifths are affected by genetics passed through generations.

This study, the largest of its kind ever to be held, found other things contribute to differences in height. More than a half of the factors are down to common genetic variation, such as the differences between and amongst various populations.

DNA of over 250,000 Europeans were collected by researchers from the international Genetic Investigation of ANthropometric Traits (GIANT) group and from these over two million common centric factors were looked into, the ones shared by around five per cent of all participants.

Results showed 424 regions of the genome, the material of an organism, had 697 variants related to height.

"It's common knowledge that people born to tall parents are more likely to be tall themselves. Most of this is down to the variations in our DNA sequence that we inherit from our parents - the different versions of all our genes," Professor Tim Frayling of Exeter's Medical School explained.

"In 2007 we published the first paper that identified the first common height gene, and since then the research has come on leaps and bounds. We have now identified nearly 700 genetic variants that are involved in determining height.

"This goes a long way towards fulfilling a scientific curiosity that could have real impact in the treatment of diseases that can be influenced by height, such as osteoporosis, cancer or heart disease.

"It's also a step forward towards a test that may reassure parents worried that their child is not growing as well as they'd hoped - most of these children have probably simply inherited a big batch of 'short genes'."

Dr Andrew Wood, who also worked on the study, added that more than 80 per cent of the factors in height variation are due to genetics, and the rest are triggered by environmental factors.

© Cover Media

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