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Imprinted Genes affect Age of First Period

Update Date: Jul 25, 2014 10:49 AM EDT
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According to a new study, the age of a girls' first period is highly dependent on 'imprinted genes,' which are a set of genes that have different activity based on which parent provided the gene. The researchers believe that this is the first study to suggest that imprinted genes can control a child's rate of development after birth.

"This research is the first step in understanding the genetics involved with the onset of puberty in girls," stated Douglas P. Kiel, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) in Boston, MA. "By uncovering which genes influence menarche, we can then focus on its link to increased disease risks, such as osteoporosis or diabetes, in later life."

To understand the influence of imprinted genes on menarche, which is also known as the age of a girl's first menstrual cycle, researchers examined data on 182,416 women, who were studied by scientists from 166 institutions throughout the world. The women were of European descent and were taken from 57 studies. The team identified a total of 123 genetic variations that could be linked to the timing of the menarche. Six variants were clustered together within the imprinted regions of the gene.

The researchers explained that certain imprinted genes get activated only if they were inherited from the mother whereas other imprinted genes get activated if they were inherited from the father. The team found that both types of imprinted genes were tied to puberty timing in girls. The findings suggest that both parents can biologically affect children's development.

"The genetics involved in female reproductive maturation is complex. Our findings extend knowledge of genetic influences that could contribute to the development of age-related conditions including menopause and osteoporosis. David Karasik, Ph.D., an associate scientist with Hebrew SeniorLife IFAR who also was involved with the study said according to the press release.

The study was published in the journal, Nature.

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