Researchers unravel the genetics of human height
Researchers unravel the genetics of human height

Researchers unravel the genetics of human height

Height differences could be caused by subtle changes in our DNA, according to the largest ever study on height.

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics on Sunday, analyzed data from the genomes of 253,288 people as the scientists looked into about two million common genetic variants. From this pool, they identified 697 (in 424 gene regions) genes as being related to height, the largest number to date associated with any trait or disease.

“Height is almost completely determined by genetics, but our earlier studies were only able to explain about 10 percent of this genetic influence,” Joel Hirschhorn, leader of the GIANT Consortium and co-senior investigator on the study, said in a statement. “Now, by doubling the number of people in our study, we have a much more complete picture of how common genetic variants affect height—how many of them there are and how much they contribute.”

Many of the 697 height-related genetic variants were located near genes known to be involved in growth, but there were also plenty of surprises, the scientists said, adding that they can now explain about 20 percent of the heritability of height, up from about 12 percent before.

The scientists also found that many of the already identified genes are likely to be important regulators of skeletal growth, something that scientists had not known until now.

“Some may also be responsible for unexplained syndromes of abnormal skeletal growth in children. As you increase the sample size, you get more biology,” Hirschhorn said.


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